Planning approvals could help States sell properties

PLANNING approvals could be put in place for some of the buildings that the States wants to sell, in order to get a better price for the taxpayer.

Deputy Victoria Oliver at the former Education office, Grange House, an example of a States-owned property that had a development framework attached to it that helped with it receiving an offer. (Picture by Peter Frankland, 30378302)
Deputy Victoria Oliver at the former Education office, Grange House, an example of a States-owned property that had a development framework attached to it that helped with it receiving an offer. (Picture by Peter Frankland, 30378302)

However, Deputy Victoria Oliver, the president of the Development & Planning Authority, wanted to reassure islanders that all the correct protocols would be followed.

As part of the States property rationalisation programme, Policy & Resources is looking to sell a number of sites including the Castel Hospital and the King Edward VII Hospital.

Deputy Oliver described the latest update as very good news.

‘It’s a very positive announcement because it’s really what I was trying to drive forward last term and I was just beating my head against a brick wall a little bit, and Dave [Deputy David Mahoney] has gone in and it’s a great outcome, he’s working closely with myself and we’re actually getting something done, which is great. We’re working as a States as a whole and I think so many properties, especially with my background, I’m seeing that they are left empty, they’re not making the States any money when actually they could be.’

It has been stressed that there is a lot of work still to be done, but Deputy Oliver is hopeful that a two-year timescale is realistic for seeing action on the two former hospital sites.

Swissville, Garden Hill and Lukis House are also touted for closure and sale. Grange House, the former Education office, is already under offer.

Deputy Oliver suggested to P&R that getting planning approval or establishing a development framework for some of the sites could help the process.

‘I think Swissville will be perfect for a housing estate, but again that will probably need a development framework.

‘Each one will have to go through an individual planning process and then I’m sure the developer will come forward and tell us what is the best thing to go on that site and really let market forces actually dictate what should go there.

‘Planning are open and we will try to facilitate so long as the IDP [island development plan] says so.

‘I have said to Deputy Mahoney that if we get planning services to put in applications to see what sort of things can go there, then obviously that will make it easier for the developer and give a steer.

‘There was a development framework here [the old Education building in the Grange], somebody came to us and said “this is what we’re looking for, can we use it?”

‘We got them through the planning process through a strategic use.

‘It all depends on the type of property it is, at Swissville it makes sense to sell that with either a development framework or planning, but it’s entirely up to Policy & Resources what happens, I was just suggesting it.’

Some eyebrows were raised when P&R announced that the Castel hospital development would be achieved through a joint venture between the States and the industry, and without the involvement of the Guernsey Housing Association.

P&R’s vision is for three, four and five bedroomed homes with decent sized gardens and parking.

Deputy Oliver said that a policy called GP11 would usually require a proportion of a large development to be affordable.

‘We have GP11 within the IDP that states that anything over 20 houses has to include affordable housing.

‘However if the site is not viable to have that then you can kind of get around GP11, but generally the IDP will have to be followed, or it could be regarded as a strategic need and that would require a lot of evidence to suggest that’s the only thing that’s needed on the site.

‘There’s a lot of affordable housing that’s coming in the pipeline, and if you overheat the market with affordable housing then we could be left with a lot of vacant units that we don’t want or people in the private sector will have to move to the GHA because there’s no private market housing.

‘So it’s a fine balance and we don’t want to overheat one market and leave the other two empty.’

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