Major Christopher Beaumont said that there would be multiple benefits from increasing the island’s population. In recent weeks, the island has received national and international attention after islander Swen Lorenz launched ‘Sark Society’, a programme to encourage and help prospective new residents to move to Sark
‘I support the idea of having more people in Sark, because people make the world go round,’ said Seigneur Beaumont.
‘Consistently I’ve raised the point that the population should go up to between 650 to 800 in total, although it can vary on that. There must be limiting factors, but Sark’s population density is much lower than Guernsey’s.’
He added: ‘Water availability must be considered so it doesn’t deplete faster than nature can replenish it.’
Clean water is treated from boreholes or feeds on catchments for storage. ‘Other than electricity everything is at household level. It’s always been that way as it’s only worth fitting mains supply in closely packed areas.’
Having more residents would make it worthwhile for shops to stock clothing essentials and commodities.
‘The variety on offer in shops is pretty sparse. You can get food but you couldn’t get clothing. But with another 100 families on the island, there is lots to be said. We would like a cross-sectional age range, and want more children in our school.’
Populations rose during the silver mining era and during the building boom.
‘It rocketed at that point, but when the mining and building stopped people went home. The 400 to 450 mark is more of our standard population. Buying property in Sark can be very difficult, as many are leased or rental. But we are going through the process of unpicking the property system, which is still controlled by legislation from 1611,’ Seigneur Beaumont said.
Guidance to help prospective homeowners is being offered online, but it does not come for free.
On his website, Mr Lorenz said: ‘Currently empty properties alone provide space for more than 300 additional people, before anyone has made an effort to create more living space out of existing properties, such as empty hotels. Terrible demographics have killed the property market, enabling you to strike a bargain. Property prices on the island have dropped about 50% over the past decade.’
Advantages of Sark life listed on his website include a one-page income tax declaration, no income tax, non-disclosure of personal assets, annual tax based on property size, no accounting requirements or employment law, and no wealth redistribution schemes.
Mr Lorenz has assisted at least 20 high-net-worth individuals to move to Sark, and has criteria in mind for who is the ‘right’ person.
‘Sark is a treasure. I want to find members who are not only keen to make use of Sark’s advantages, but also willing to help protect its uniqueness and contribute to its long-term social, financial, and political sustainability.’