Guernsey Press

P&R scraps idea to build on PEH's green field

Opponents of building housing on a green field at the Princess Elizabeth Hospital were celebrating yesterday after the new Policy & Resources committee scrapped the contentious idea.

P&R vice-president Heidi Soulsby at the field next to the PEH where plans to build staff accommodation for nursing staff have been pulled by her committee. (Picture by Peter Frankland, 32922239)

P&R announced the withdrawal of a controversial planning application submitted by its predecessor committee for three- and four-storey buildings to provide 66 units for health workers on Le Bordage Seath.

The senior committee said it wanted to focus on other sites which were more appropriate for key worker housing and that the application to build on the PEH field was unlikely to be approved anyway.

‘A few people will be disappointed, but most of the community will think this is the right outcome,’ said Steve Falla, who led an unsuccessful requete which tried to stop the development in July 2022.

‘The sheer strength of public opinion and the number of representations received by the Development & Planning Authority showed that there would need to be some exceptionally strong arguments to overcome the high barriers which planning policies rightly put in place.

‘Those arguments never came to the fore.’

When Deputy Falla’s requete was defeated, the States backed an amendment from Deputy Neil Inder instead.

That amendment kept the development alive and directed that it should be offset by spending up to £300,000 to buy land of an equivalent size elsewhere to be converted into grassland for dairy farming.

But P&R said yesterday that ‘an extraordinary number of representations’ had been made against building on Le Bordage Seath and it would be unable to demonstrate that no other suitable sites were available for development.

‘I never thought the case stacked up. It always looked like a long shot,’ said P&R vice-president Heidi Soulsby, who signed the requete against it 18 months ago.

‘This application was pursued long past the time when it was clear that it would not be straightforward.

‘Development on this site was not achievable.

‘It takes a lot of time to prepare and plan developments and there are better sites available.’

Deputy Yvonne Burford wrote to P&R soon after it was elected in mid-December and asked the committee to rule out developing Le Bordage Seath, which was identified as an agricultural priority area in the Island Development Plan.

‘From the outset back in 2022, it was obvious that this application was unlikely to meet planning criteria.

‘However, despite this, the application was pursued for 13 months,’ said Deputy Burford.

‘During that time, I submitted two sets of written parliamentary questions to the committee on this matter, as well as making my own representations to the DPA and writing an article for the Guernsey Press.

‘An extraordinary number of concerned islanders also wrote to the DPA with their objections and these objections were instrumental in P&R making the decision yesterday to withdraw the application.

‘Housing, including key worker housing, is vital for our community but energies must be directed at developing brown field sites first wherever possible.’

The DPA deferred the application in January last year and invited the previous P&R to provide further information about its case. P&R replied in October and the application remained unresolved.

DPA vice-president Andrew Taylor welcomed the decision to withdraw the application.

‘It appears that P&R has taken an entirely pragmatic approach to this highly contentious application, and I applaud that,’ said Deputy Taylor.

‘As a member of the DPA, I hope we can do everything within our mandate to ensure the alternative sites that come forward are dealt with as a matter of priority.’