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Minister Responds To Initial Island Plan Challenges

The Environment Minister is not supporting bids from several politicians to stop new homes from being built on fields in their parishes.

Deputy John Young has responded to the 60 challenges and more than 2,000 comments made to Jersey's Draft Bridging Island Plan which will set out what is built, and where, until 2025.

There were bids to protect fields in many areas including the northern edge of St Helier and around Five Oaks.

Deputy Young says while he acknowledges and empathises with the concerns made, all these sites are important in making a contribution to the overall supply of homes, and crucially, affordable ones.

"The Minister considers it critically important, however, that the distribution of sites for the provision of affordable homes is proportionate and sustainable, having regard to their distribution across the island.

"On this basis, the Minister is seeking to maintain the overall level of supply of affordable homes, to be delivered through the allocation of sites, as set out in the draft plan."

He admits that some sites may not be supported by the States Assembly, and as such, he's suggested other fields to replace them 'if this proves necessary'.

Two challenges were made to the Island Plan relating to schools, but Deputy Young says he is minded not to support them pending the publication of the education estate review in St Helier and St Saviour.

The Chief Minister said in the States Assembly earlier this year that it would be published before the end of June, but work is still ongoing.

Education Minister Deputy Scott Wickenden said during July's debate on Rouge Bouillon School and the old police site, that they want to make sure they do a 'thorough piece of work'.

Deputy Inna Gardiner wants education to be given 'the highest priority' for States-owned land if it's been identified that improvements to a school in the vicinity are required.

She says it's about space and preserving appropriate sites so that these schools can grow as needed and provide up-to-date and appropriate facilities for the island's children and young people.

Deputy Young says the amendment has been made with good intention, but it has the potential to stop development whilst the needs of the education estate are unresolved.

"The Minister agrees that resolving the needs of primary schools in town is of utmost importance and is pleased that the Assembly has agreed proposition P.43/2021 (as amended) to ensure that the identification of a site(s) can happen as quickly as possible.

"The Minister wishes to reserve position on amendment no.6 into the draft Bridging Island Plan as it is hoped the effect of P.43/2021 will be that a suitable site(s) is identified in the near future and able to be included in Bridging Island Plan and thus negating the need for amendment no.6."

Meanwhile, the Minister has called a bid to safeguard the Jersey Gas site so a new primary school could be built there 'premature'.

Deputy Rob Ward said it would be the perfect location - with enough space for a fit-for-purpose school, outdoor play areas, and sports facilities.

But Deputy John Young says the review of the St Helier primary school estate should be finished first.

"The Minister wishes to avoid forcing the development of a school on a site which may transpire to be less favourable than other sites and options being explored but will be supportive of the amendment should this site ultimately be selected.

"The implications of this amendment being taken forward would mean the prevention of the development of affordable homes, as envisaged by Supplementary Planning Guidance: Jersey Gas Site and accounted for within the 2021-2025 housing supply estimate, and may also have implications for the provision of public open space."

In response, Deputy Ward says not coordinating the work on the education estate with the island plan 'shows the disjointed nature of this government'.

Among the other amendments to the Island Plan was to create a marine park.

Senator Lyndon Farnham said Jersey has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to show leadership and create a Marine Park that rebrands the island as one of the world's most accessible marine eco-tourism destinations.

But Deputy John Young says designating a national marine park cannot be achieved through the planning process or island plan.

"The value of doing this through the marine spatial planning process is that there would be a clear process of consultation and engagement involving all key stakeholders with an interest in the marine environment, where issues of integration and overlap between different marine activities could be comprehensively and robustly considered."

You can read more on the Minister's responses to the States member amendments here.

Independent planning inspectors are now reviewing the plan to discuss key issues in more depth in public hearings.

Deputy Young says once that process is finished, the inspectors own report will be published and States members can make more challenges in light of their recommendations.

The draft plan will be debated by the States Assembly in spring 2022.

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