Thursday, July 23, 2015

Social housing and other "social" decisions in the Jersey Planning system...

The Planning Panel was in a generous mood towards developers today.

Senator Ozouf and his family’s “Highstead” farm development in Green Zone St Saviour was approved without dissent but none of the 19 new homes plus the restored 18th century, listed farmhouse – will be put on the “Gateway” list for social housing.

This is up-market housing and different standards apply in such rural areas of Jersey.

The developers will though contribute towards a pathway connection to Rue des Pres and road improvements including improved road sight lines…


Earlier in the day Andium Homes had revealed that there are currently 1,092 families waiting for social housing accommodation on that list alone and that is one of the reasons why they are to be allowed to cram another 100% of units (145 flats) on the redeveloped Le Squez Phase IV site.

This is within the built up zone of course in St Clement where almost anything goes.

Desperate needs must etc…


The Planning Officer explained that this was a high density proposal because that is what the previous Minister and the Island Plan required although it was admitted that there would be some “impact” on existing neighbours’ properties…but everybody (apart from a protesting neighbour) agreed that the Architects had achieved “an Excellent standard of design” and it was in line with UK standards so far as space between blocks are concerned – better even that Hammersmith or Fulham!

Nevertheless, some window would have to be fitted with permanent louvres to prevent the occupiers from looking out and spoiling the privacy of their neighbours or overlooking the communal amenity areas.


No such restrictions were mentioned by the Architect regarding “Highstead.”

Presumably different design standards were applied there where a similar – but very low-rise – courtyard plan was proposed.


Strangely, “excellent design” is a fickle creature because Andium is currently proposing to demolish and redevelop the Green Street low rise blocks (whilst retaining a sole high-rise block there) which were also considered to be of a high standard of design and are still listed.

Yet again, because the Island Plan requires it, these 50 years old flats in the “built-up zone” are be redeveloped with a 300% increase in numbers of homes. Now they are of course considered as no longer fit for habitation and the tenants are to be “decanted” elsewhere …but not with the same care afforded to vintage wines. The listing of such buildings counts for little in St Helier.


Green Street low-rise is now degenerating into what used to be categorized as “slums” in the past and were presumably built to house people “decanted” from even earlier “sub-standard accommodation” in the town. Shall this cycle never be stopped?


And how odd it is that Architects and Planners created both the Le Squez and Green Street developments just 50 or so years ago and both are now only fit for demolition, just like so much other post-war “social housing “ in Jersey. On the other hand, the 300 year old “Highstead” farmhouse is still going strong, was not designed by an Architect nor created in line with an “Island Plan” and the new houses on this site are to be in a similar 18th century style, using granite etc.


What does this really say about the achievement of architects and planners since the war in Jersey?

In September there is a week of self-praise and award giving among the professionals but have they anything to be proud of when it comes to providing “social housing” in Jersey?

Now we are cramming accommodation in wherever a “built – up zone” space allows.

Although “Parker Morris” minimum space standards were introduced in the 1950’s during more enlightened times these have never been fully achieved and the ludicrously high densities now being permitted are just a formula for future problems.

How can professionally trained designers allow this to happen? Whose interests do they serve?


It is not just about housing accommodation either because so much commercial, office and hotel accommodation built in the recent past is not longer “fit for purpose” and the call is for new “A Class” facilities.

Yet the same call is to convert much of these redundant “sub-standard” buildings into housing accommodation, which must inevitably fail to achieve the highest quality.


Another development that achieved the nod of the Planning Panel today was that for a two part plan to move metal recycling and organic waste disposal to La Collette. It was inevitably approved because “the Island Plan” required it but this was a really blatant example of the divided Island, Ghetto creating, NIMBY attitude towards “social” or “public” provision of services and facilities.


As Bob Le Brocq pointed out (protesting in a personal capacity), Constable Gallichan of St Mary (who chaired the session), had previously rejected the organic facility in her Parish.

Bob thought that the facilities should be shared among 3 centres but the decision was to approve La Collette in spite of the nearly 600 vehicles per day (7 days a week) that will deliver there travelling via Commercial Building or Havre De Pas.


Whether that was 600 in and 600 out again was not made clear but it would have made no difference.

Nobody wanted the facility in their patch of Jersey so dump it in St Helier was the foregone conclusion.

Only one objection had been made against it – by the St Helier Roads Committee and the two St Helier Deputies on the Panel (Labey and Wickenden) recused  (absented)  the themselves for the discussion, as is the policy.


Who can resist such a flawed process?