Guernsey Press

Warm welcome from business groups for east coast agency

BUSINESS groups have welcomed warmly proposals for a non-States agency to manage the development of the eastern seafront and harbours.

(Picture By Peter Frankland, 30453137)

If approved by deputies in the spring, the development agency will operate at arm’s length from the States but take its strategic direction and operational parameters from government.

The Chamber of Commerce, the Institute of Directors, the Guernsey International Business Association and the Confederation of Guernsey Industry have all expressed their support for the plans.

Chamber president Elaine Gray said it had been pressing for the start of ‘appropriate east coast development’ for several years.

‘We are delighted to hear that, as well as economic activity, the proposed board will also have a focus on sustainability and the blue economy,’ she said.

A focus on economic enablers, coupled with improvement of areas such as the east coast, for the benefit of the whole island, was much-needed.

Chamber had also lobbied for the agency to have a high degree of independence and members who have expert insight without any conflict involving previously published schemes or States’ perspectives.

A joint statement from the IoD and Giba added their voices to the support.

‘We believe that the concept of a development agency allows for long-term planning and facilitates the delivery of complex projects, many of which are now critical to the island’s economic and social success,’ they said.

They said that the success of such agencies could be seen in the UK, Singapore, New Zealand and Canada.

‘Their success [has been] attributed in part to the role played by economic development agencies, tasked by their governments with the promotion of economic development and growth.’

Having a devolved responsibility would see projects able to move forward more efficiently, and utilise the expertise available from the private sector and social enterprises, while following the direction and operational principles set out by the States.

‘The principles of independence, transparency and accountability are crucial,’ they said.

Ms Gray said Chamber was particularly pleased that the intention was for States processes to not ‘unduly inhibit’ the agency’s work, according to the policy letter.

Giba and the IoD also backed the idea of using expertise from outside the States to get projects started without increasing the size of government.

‘We strongly support this policy letter as a first step towards starting some critical infrastructure projects – many of which have been under discussion for over a decade,’ said the two groups.

The Confederation of Guernsey Industry said it was ‘deeply disappointed’ with the harbour development proposals debated last June and had speculated then that a development agency approach was needed.

It wanted to see developments integrated from Leale’s Yard, through St Sampson’s and the eastern seaboard to St Peter Port.

It said the plans for the new agency were ‘a further sign from those driving the ambition of the current Assembly of the need to get things done and to be bold in challenging the previous ways of working that have resulted in precious little progress on strategic infrastructure maintenance and development projects’.

‘Our members in the transportation and freight handling sectors have been telling us for a long time now how great the need to improve the harbour facilities is, particularly in respect of the working areas.’

The CGi said that such an agency could deliver social, environmental and aesthetic objectives more quickly for the States, with private sector involvement and innovation minimising the cost to the taxpayer.