‘Balancing act to put right plan in place for Sark’s future’
ACKNOWLEDGING Sark’s fragile ecosystem while simultaneously increasing its resilience will be crucial in developing any plan for the island’s future, according to the senior director of the Prince’s Foundation.
Ben Bolgar has been part of a team of four planning experts from the foundation who have been visiting the island this week.
A number of public events were held, giving islanders the opportunity to voice their views and allowing foundation representatives the chance to gauge overall public opinion on a range of matters.
‘On Monday evening we had a big event at the island hall that was introduced by Seigneur Christopher Beaumont, and about 150 people turned up,’ said Mr Bolgar.
‘It was more of a listening and learning exercise for us, we didn’t want islanders to worry that we were coming over with a pre-conceived plan about what was best for them, as obviously we don’t know the island like they do.’
Following the initial presentation, islanders were able to visit various tables dotted around the hall, ask questions of the foundation representatives and give feedback on what they had already heard.
‘We had 3D model maps of Sark out, and we were asking people to mark some of the key areas on the island which they felt needed to be looked at closely in any future development plan.
'We are focusing on four areas in particular, Sark heritage, social services, land ownership, and infrastructure,’ Mr Bolgar said.
He added that he had spent much of yesterday attending technical briefings with local ecological, archaeological and language experts, as well as going on a walking tour to gain a better understanding of the island’s flora and fauna.
One of the more pressing concerns islanders have, according to Mr Bolgar, is the length of time people live on the island, and the frequency with which they leave and return.
‘On Sark, you have some families who have been here for 400 years, but you also have families that have been here for eight years, or two years. That’s the nature of an island community, you get people who come and go.’
Consequently, there are also worries over the size of the island’s population.
‘In 2012 the population was about 700, but that decreased to about 400 within a decade. This is what we mean when we say that Sark has a fragile ecosystem. It’s at the end of the supply chain, so people shouldn’t assume that the population is always going to be thriving,’ said Mr Bolgar.
‘On the other hand, a sudden influx of people into the island would not be good for the island’s ecology, and residents don’t want a huge wave of new people coming in either. It’s about finding a balance.’
Previous attempts to put together a future plan for the island in the 1960s and 2013 were sidelined, but Mr Bolgar is optimistic that, on this occasion, the outcome could be different.
‘The general feeling I get from the population is that they are pleased that we are here because they sense that change is required. Our next steps will be to publish our findings from this visit in June or July and collect feedback on that.
‘If it is positive, then we can think about moving forward and creating some sort of strategy that could be implemented in the future,’ he said.
The Princes's Foundation
It is an educational charity that was initially established in 1986 as the Prince of Wales’s Institute of Architecture by the then prince, now King Charles III.
It was created through the merger in 2018 of The Prince’s Foundation for Building Community, The Prince’s Regeneration Trust, The Great Steward of Scotland’s Dumfries House Trust and The Prince’s School of Traditional Arts.
It offers a range of education and training programmes, including traditional arts and heritage craft skills, architecture and design, science, engineering, horticulture, wellbeing and hospitality. Programmes take place within and beyond the Foundation’s sites, both nationally and internationally.