‘Homes for up to 5,000 in Town’

UP TO 5,000 more people could be housed in St Peter Port ‘and no-one would blink an eyelid’, a senior politician has claimed.

 Deputy Jonathan Le Tocq. (Picture by Peter Frankland, 30079934)
Deputy Jonathan Le Tocq. (Picture by Peter Frankland, 30079934)

But Deputy Jonathan Le Tocq said the island would need to more creative in using existing space to achieve it.

The parish already has very nearly twice as many residents as the next-most populated parish – the Vale – but the former chief minister says it could take much more if existing spaces were converted or returned to accommodation.

‘You wouldn’t need to build anything,’ he said yesterday, having made his claim in the States tax review debate two weeks ago.

He reached his 5,000 figure after talks with landlords and property owners in recent years.

‘When I was chief minister I was looking at the population back in 1920 and it is about the same as what it is now, it makes you question where they were all housed.

‘It’s because the second, third, fourth and fifth levels of our town have since been converted to offices or shops.

‘But it requires more than just changing planning law – landlords and developers need to take an interest in existing spaces and buildings that we already have,’ he said.

As of March 2020 there were 19,160 people living in the island’s capital across nearly 9,000 units of accommodation.

There are currently 500 people on waiting lists for Guernsey Housing Association housing, and Deputy Peter Roffey, leading the States in addressing the island’s housing problems, said this week that up to 1,000 more homes need to be built within the next five years.

‘I’ve been saying this for years but there has been no traction,’ Deputy Le Tocq said.

‘I’m not talking about converting shops, I know storage is an issue, but some shops have a whole second floor that is all storage and not all shops need that.

‘Some places have storage with fantastic views over the islands and that isn’t the best use of the space.

‘People moan about shops closing and there not being so much life in Town anymore, but when you have more people living somewhere things like eateries and bars begin to appear.’

Deputy Le Tocq highlighted Mill Street as a potential area for more housing units.

‘Walking through Mill Street, if you look above the shops they’re largely empty.’

Many people favour trying to make more of redevelopment to create new housing. Deputy Le Tocq agrees.

‘Before we start to looking to build on fields we should look at provision of first-time buyers or rented flats. It’s not a complete solution, but even if that figure is 50% correct, that is a substantial amount of people who can be accommodated in existing buildings.’

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