Developments in fields must stop – La Societe

DEVELOPMENT on green field sites must stop, La Societe has said.

Trevor Bourgaize, the secretary of La Societe's entomology section, at the Castel Hospital site which Policy & Resources earmarked for housing. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 30404675)
Trevor Bourgaize, the secretary of La Societe's entomology section, at the Castel Hospital site which Policy & Resources earmarked for housing. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 30404675)

La Societe has written to the Development & Planning Authority asking for a suspension on green belt being turned into houses or gardens, otherwise known as ‘domestic curtilage’.

The issue has been brought to the fore recently after Policy & Resources revealed its intention to build three-, four- and five-bedroom homes on fields around the Castel Hospital.

La Societe’s entomology section secretary Trevor Bourgaize said some of the countryside around the old hospital is classed as an agricultural priority area.

‘I’ve seen so many changes in the last 50 years and unfortunately if we don’t put a stop to it soon we’ll have virtually nothing left in the island.

‘As the law stands they cannot do it, and I would hope that the media will ask P&R questions about how they came to this idea, and also ask Planning who may or may not have said that the States can get round the planning laws.

‘It’s an absolutely horrific idea, and if P&R can do something like this then it opens the floodgates for lots of people to apply for a similar project.

‘If this is an example of executive government and if this is what we can look forward to, people making things up on the hoof, then we’re definitely in trouble.’

Mr Bourgaize said he was in favour of building homes on brownfield sites, including at the old hospital, but only within the existing concrete footprint.

La Societe members were disappointed when a meeting it organised last year for deputies to hear about their conservation work was attended by less than a third of politicians.

The members hoped that this was not indicative of apathy among deputies to the destruction of ecosystems and a deteriorating environment.

As well as building homes on green fields, La Societe is also concerned about the increasing trend for agricultural land to be turned into domestic curtilage, which is effectively extra garden space.

In the five-year period between 2016 and 2020 more than 300 vergees of agricultural land, the size of approximately 75 football pitches, was converted into gardens.

Householders who wish to extend their so-called domestic curtilage now have to provide biodiversity enhancement information with their planning application, but it is unclear whether there are checks to ensure that householders actually fulfil the commitments.

Mr Bourgaize said there was an overwhelming need for the States to employ a professional ecologist.

‘Planning doesn’t have an ecologist that can advise on which areas are particularly good for wildlife or have unusual plants or insects or birds, the fact that does Guernsey States does not have an ecologist is pretty shocking, Jersey have got around four.

‘Who is advising the States on the strategy for nature? It’s been approved and signed off, but who is ensuring that the States are sticking to it?’

Mr Bourgaize admitted he had a zeal for nature, but said he was absolutely convinced that a thriving natural environment was is fundamental to the human species.

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