Monday, February 25, 2013

Portacabins for Jersey's first time buyers...?

Sir Philip Bailhache speaks out at the Senatorial hustings in October 2011 against the sub-standard living accommodation for the "non-qualified" population of Jersey.

Chief Minister Ian Gorst speaks out at the Senatorial hustings in October 2011 against the sub-standard living accommodation for the "non-qualified" population of Jersey.

Some portacabins in Jersey in 2013 - the sort of sub-standard living accommodation for the "non-qualified" population of Jersey that Chief Minister Senator Gorst and Assistant Chief Minister Senator Bailhache spoke out so strongly against in October 2011...

Sometime back in 2000 or even earlier about 20 “portacabins” were erected at Haut de l’Orme Farm, Trinity as staff accommodation and toilets. They are situated at the rear of the complex of buildings now often referred to as Rondels’ Farm Shop etc.

The Planning (and Environment) Office file is a bit vague on the precise number of portacabins or even if they were formally granted a “planning Permit” under Reference 7389/I. There is no copy of a permit in the Planning Office file and repeated requests at the office seeking clarification of the matter have been ignored or left unanswered.

During March 2006 under Ref P0182/B a retrospective permission was granted (in the name of Rondel Farms Ltd) to reposition 2 units and the siting of a third.
The conditions on the permit issued then included that “the approval relates solely to the three additional portakabins as shown on approved drawing No P/2006/0182B” and that “the accommodation shall comply with the Dept of Health Code of Practice on Staff Accommodation and Lodging Houses standards.”

During the autumn 2011 elections I spoke with candidate Richard Rondel on several occasions asking him for an interview regarding the portacabins but he declined whilst assuring me that the occupiers were perfectly content.
He was duly elected as a St Helier Deputy and now serves in the States in that capacity.
I spoke with him about the portacabins again this week. He advised that they are all rented out to the Jersey Royals potato growing company along with the fields etc.

My initial enquiries at the Planning Offices with Officer Townshend, commenced at about the same time as the States’ elections (Autumn 2011). I asked him when they were granted permission and more general questions about the supposed “temporary” nature of such accommodation and how permissions are only supposed to be granted in “exceptional circumstances” in accordance with Planning Policy No 8 etc.
Also, that these units are supposed to be “carefully and continuously monitored.”
I asked if the Planning Office kept a list of such permits, and if so, might I see it and how these properties are monitored (for continued need and standards etc).

Having received no response from Officer Townshend I was referred to Simone Glen-Dewar (Planning Technician) and followed up with an emailed reminder on 11 October.
She replied in November (c.c. to Townshend) that she would be absent for the next 2 weeks and “unfortunately the exercise has proven more complex than originally thought and I feel it needs to have time spent on it to ensure that there is no reason for recourse….I will therefore return to you once I have completed all my investigative work.”
I reminded her again by email in December and then learned that the matter had been passed on to senior planner Peter Le Gresley for his attention…

In the meantime Sir Philip Bailhache had been elected as a Senator in the autumn elections and, since he had expressed some critical views about “farm workers accommodation” during the hustings, I contacted him by email on 5 January 2012 seeking his help and inviting him to bring a relevant proposition.
I pointed out that some of these “temporary” structures were a “blot” on Jersey’s social landscape and how this was an “all Island matter etc.”

Senator Bailhache replied on 9 January 2012;
“I am not sure that I spoke several times about housing but I did certainly answer a question of yours expressing my view that portacabins were not appropriate accommodation for anyone. As you may know, I am now a member of the government with responsibility for external affairs and I do not think that it is open to me to bring a proposition criticizing the performance of any government department.
However, if you would care to come and see me with evidence of these “blots,” I am certainly prepared to take the matter up privately with the relevant Minister.
Perhaps you would let me know if you wish to do that, or if you would prefer to find a member without departmental responsibilities to advance the cause.”

I responded on 12 January…
”If you are prepared to take on this matter I leave it up to you how you do it. I am currently awaiting the Planners’ response with regard to one particular portakabin settlement and their official explanation of the general policy defects already referred to. As soon as this comes through I will be pleased to meet you and give whatever “evidence” I have collected.”

On 3 February 2012 I updated Senator Bailhache that the Planning Office now claimed to have mislaid my request for further clarification but that I was assured it was now receiving attention.
Unfortunately nothing transpired so I wrote to Deputy Duhamel, the Planning Minister on 29 June and complained that “I have now reached the point where it must be a deliberate attempt to withhold this information and it seems that the issue rests with Peter Le Gresley although others were originally supposedly researching the matter etc” and sought his “urgent intervention.”

Still nothing transpired.

I wrote again to Senator Bailhache on 31 August advising that I had again just contacted the Planning Office and been fobbed off…”It seems that both officers who might have some vague knowledge are “on leave” (viz Peter le Gresley and Lawrence Davies) and Derek Smith – the Duty Officer – does not want to “jeopardise” any action that might be taken although he has no knowledge of the matter.”
I pointed out that Deputy Duhamel had not responded and reminded the Senator that “since this is about all Island issues, I would suggest that the time has arrived for you to make some enquiries of your own.”

Unfortunately, the Senator responded that he was now too busy to assist further until after the Electoral Commission (for which he was chairman), had reported…

At “Sandhurst,” St Ouen during July 2011, the Jersey Royal Company was also encountering “planning resistance”. The company, which claimed to farm about one third of Jersey’s total land area (then) employed 550 potato workers Island-wide under 11 categories of seniority.  This one business was responsible for two-thirds of Jersey’s rural economy and owned 96 vans to transport its workers from one site to another yet the Planning Office was still refusing to grant permission for the construction of twelve units of accommodation for “senior” staff on Field 189, in the western area where they farmed 3,000 vergees of land.

Thus on 25 July, I was enabled to attend a Complaints Board hearing brought by Jersey Royal (Potato Marketing) Ltd against the Planning Department, held at St Ouen’s Parish Hall and on the relevant, nearby site.
But the negative decision was confirmed by the Board – inspite of the fact that the powerful supermarket customers laid down strict minimum standards for staff accommodation and there was a substantial shortage of this in Jersey and five units had previously been approved (but not built) on the site. The potato company’s pleas had been in vain and their attempts to build high quality staff accommodation denied.

For some strange reason, the Island appeared to be happier to house people in portacabins rather than in proper, modern houses!

Now, in February 2013, the Jersey Royal Company has re-applied to reposition the five units already agreed and this planning application is currently pending.

I wrote to Senator Bailhache on 21 February 2013 that “I intend to renew my efforts re portakabins and other shocking forms of sub-standard housing accommodation. We have exchanged previous emails on the subject – are you yet in a position to help?”
I await his response…but understand that he is currently in Paris promoting Jersey potatoes and other things to the French.

Deputy Richard Rondel recently signed off the Scrutiny Report on the new Control of Housing and Work (Jersey) Law which found that enforcement of existing “immigration” controls had been ineffective over 40 years. This is the legislation that I petitioned the Privy Council against in July 2011 causing some delays and amendments on Human Rights grounds to be initiated.
This Scrutiny panel, under Deputy Power’s chairing has now recommended further repressive measures such as photos on ID cards and immigration inspectors to “blow the whistle on unauthorised “white van man” etc.

Deputy Rondel currently also sits on the Scrutiny Panel looking at the joint Housing and Treasury Ministers’ proposal to introduce a short term (max 6 months) trial “deposit loan” scheme. This absurd scheme is designed to assist no more than about 60 applicants to purchase overpriced, largely unaffordable and non-existent properties whereas it will do absolutely nothing to help eliminate the disgraceful portacabins of Jersey or the dreadful accommodation endured by so many of the other 10,000 of the 98,000 residents of Jersey who do not even have “housing qualifications.”


  1. mr dunn
    nobody makes them stay here they could all ways go back home

  2. Hi Tom.

    Just put up Questions without Answers from this morning, You & your readers can Listen HERE


  3. Good morning mr Dunn
    Recently I shopped at Rondels farm shop. Speaking to the young lady serving me she told me her sister in Poland had just given birth to a baby girl. A few days later I took her some baby clothes my baby granddaughter no longer needed. She was delighted and we took them around to her friends portakabin to store whilst she arranged to post them. The portakabin inside was immaculate and was as good as any jersey built studio flat. I am puzzled as to how you have such low opinion of this accommodation. Have you bothered to look at it yourself ?