Guernsey Press

Prince’s Foundation is hoped to boost investment in Sark

THE company funding the involvement of The Prince’s Foundation in the future of Sark has spoken about its ambitions for the island’s future.

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Swen Lorenz, of Sark Property Company, which put up £50,000 to pay for The Prince’s Foundation’s initial visit to the island. (Picture by Luke Le Prevost, 32175306)

In April, the Sark Property Company put up £50,000 to pay for the Foundation’s initial visit and assessment.

The company is a 100% subsidiary of Sarnia Asset Management, a Guernsey-based fund manager, and its directors are the Seigneur of Sark, Christopher Beaumont, and Swen Lorenz, the CEO of Sarnia Asset Management.

‘The Sark property company is, in essence, a joint venture of Christopher and me,’ said Mr Lorenz.

‘In our view, Sark needs investment and I have a fund management company that can help provide that.’

The two men came together after realising they had similar feelings on what the island needed to evolve.

‘I arrived in winter 2017, and in January 2018 I’d been asked to give my first impression of the island to the Chamber of Commerce,’ said Mr Beaumont.

‘It seemed obvious to me that there weren’t enough people on the island to make the community go round.

‘That was the catalyst for Sven to say, “here’s someone saying the same thing, and I think we should get together”.’

The Prince’s Foundation was established in 1986 by King Charles III to teach and demonstrate principles of traditional urban design and architecture which places communities at the centre of the design process.

Representatives spent a few days in Sark earlier this year, touring the island and discussing ideas with the island’s population. They aim to publish a report in July.

More than 150 people from Sark’s population of 500 turned out for an open meeting during the visit.

The two men said they were both incredibly pleased with the turnout and feedback from the initial visit.

Mr Lorenz moved to the island full-time in 2017 after first visiting in 2004 and spontaneously renting a cottage.

He had previous experience of working with The Prince’s Foundation in the Galapagos Islands some 10 years ago, when he personally provided funding for an initial analysis.

‘Then we professionally raised millions for them to do work in the Galapagos Islands, which was, I think, very successful.

‘The only way to get them over to Sark to do some initial work was for someone to pay for it, and as part of our overall plans and ambitions for Sark, we said now’s the time for us to make a commitment. We’ve disclosed this upfront.’

The pair said they could not second-guess the Foundation’s findings, but thought it was likely that Sark’s low population was an obvious factor that would be addressed.

‘All of that ultimately comes down to an element of real estate development,’ said Mr Lorenz.

‘Starting with the fact that probably 20% of the island’s real estate is derelict and a blight right now.

‘There’s also question of infrastructure, such as electricity. We certainly have the potential investment necessary for that and we could take pressure off the Sark treasury. ‘

Mr Beaumont said he believed the island had come to the conclusion that doing nothing was no longer an option.

‘Something has to be done.

‘We’re taking the approach that we’re starting from the bottom upwards. We’re asking people what they like and don’t like.

‘Our community is a vital ingredient, what do they want to see happen?

Mr Lorenz added: ‘We’re not here to force any of our ideas on to the island. If the assessment concluded that nothing should be done on Sark at all, then we would just basically pack up.’