Guernsey Press

Inder takes issue with DPA’s ‘snoopers’ charter’

Homeowners could escape plans for a new ‘clear up’ law targeted at derelict or unsightly properties.

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Deputy Neil Inder. (Picture by Luke Le Prevost, 31949312)

The Development & Planning Authority is asking for new powers to force property owners to make improvements to buildings or land which are ‘adversely affecting the amenity of the area’.

But Deputy Neil Inder wants to exclude residential properties from the new regime.

The DPA’s proposals and an amendment from Deputy Inder will be debated at the States meeting, which starts tomorrow.

‘We do not feel it is the business of government, its authorities, or elected representatives to interfere in the private lives of owners or occupiers of private dwellings,’ said Deputy Inder.

‘It is a fundamental right of everyone in the island to live how they please on their own property.'

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‘There is a distinct difference between commercial premises that may have been derelict for a number of years and whose effect has brought a retail area down along with the surrounding amenity value [and] interfering in the life of an individual where the neighbours may dislike the look of a property or take a dim view of an individual’s lifestyle.’

The DPA’s proposals, published in October last year, set out how civil notices could be issued to force property owners to make improvements. If they failed to comply, the States could step in to do the work and force the property owner to pay.

Deputy Inder has concerns that the DPA’s proposals could create a ‘snoopers’ charter’ with parish douzaines and islanders encouraged to look out for properties which fall short of inexact standards of maintenance.

‘The power of social media in small jurisdictions cannot be ignored,’ he said.

‘It’s not impossible that islanders with alternative lifestyles, disabilities or simply limited funds become the targets of social media.’

Deputy Adrian Gabriel, who is seconding the amendment, said his concerns grew when he recently attended a presentation at which the DPA explained how the proposed law would work in practice.

‘There was much discussion among States members around the potential sites that might be affected and the depth and subjectivity of the proposed powers around the civil notices. Alarm bells started to ring for me when a residential site was mentioned,’ said Deputy Gabriel.

‘Remember that if a complaint is upheld and goes unrectified the owner or occupier could end up with a criminal conviction. This goes too far and is very different from a derelict commercial property that is not being maintained.

‘The thrust of the amendment, and my view, is that government shouldn’t be interfering with civilians’ day-to-day lifestyles. The subjectivity of the interpretation of the new legislation also gives me some concern.’

Deputy Gabriel said he was told that the DPA could be preparing its own amendment in response to deputies’ concerns about its proposals.

The DPA said late yesterday that more would be known in the next 24 hours about its position on the amendments submitted against its policy letter.