An article in Saturday’s The Times said that the MoJ was becoming ‘increasingly concerned’ and was ‘considering how it may need to intervene’.
But a blunt statement from the MoJ suggests otherwise. ‘Guernsey and Alderney are self-governing jurisdictions, and this is a matter for their respective governments,’ it said in response to a query from the Guernsey Press.
‘Alderney held to ransom by runway repairs’ was the headline of The Times’ article in which a reporter spoke to Blonde Hedgehog Group founder Julie-Anne Uggla about how runway closures had affected her business, as well as former Olympic swimmer Duncan Goodhew, who grew up in Alderney and whose daughter got married there this year, and historian Dan Snow, who has endorsed plans to ‘get the runway fixed’ and spoke about the importance of the island’s Roman remains.
Plans to repair the runway as well as extend it and redevelop the island’s airport terminal (referred to as Option C+) are due to be debated by the States this week.
The Times’ piece referred to the frequent closures of the runway. ‘The damage has provoked anger because of a long-standing delay by the States of Guernsey, which administers many services on the 2,200-inhabitant island, to uphold a 2019 promise to spend £12 million repairing the runway.’
It also said that Guernsey had been accused of ‘dragging its feet’ and claimed that a final decision on the runway’s future had been put back, even though the debate has not yet taken place.
Justice Minister Mike Freer is reported to be visiting the islands in the spring and The Times said he is expected to raise the matter then.
The MoJ could neither confirm nor deny this to the Press.
Alex Snowdon, one of Alderney’s representatives in the States of Guernsey, thought the MoJ would become interested and tweeted his thoughts that this might happen recently: ‘If the sursis is successful, then the UK government will likely be required to step in swiftly as the situation would be totally unacceptable for Alderney and the Bailiwick,’ he wrote.
This comment led to a response from Deputy Yvonne Burford: ‘Hyperbolic threats of the MoJ “stepping in” really don’t help the conversation,’ said the deputy, who was behind a sursis which would have put back debate on Alderney’s runway until after a decision about Guernsey’s own runway is taken.
She has since said she will not lay the sursis.
Mr Snowdon said he was surprised to see the MoJ quoted in the article: ‘It’s quite unusual to see the MoJ making open comments in a national newspaper.
‘If this [dispute] carries on and Guernsey and Alderney can’t sort it out then the UK government will have to get involved, but we don’t want to go down that path. We need to be working together.
‘Option C+ saves money for the Bailiwick taxpayer.’
The MoJ’s only other comment to the Guernsey Press was the same as that quoted in The Times: ‘Under a long-standing agreement, the Guernsey Government has committed to resurfacing the runway when resurfacing is required, and we understand that there will be a vote in Guernsey’s Parliament next week on whether to extend the runway at the same time.’