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Public do not hold key to Leale’s Yard

Guernsey Press Comment | Published:

THE States is asking for ideas about how to develop two very different sites.

The aquarium is unique, burrowed away in a cliff-face, a home to fish and crustaceans, not humans.

It has great views from its front and back doors but would be decidedly damp and dark as anyone’s home or office.

The 12-acre site at Leale’s Yard is more traditional, but no less tricky. It has light and fresh air but there is concern that climate change puts it at risk of flooding and past decades show that it is a challenge to develop.

To ask islanders what they would like to see on such a difficult site ticks the box of public engagement, but little else.

For the public do not hold the purse strings. Nothing will get built unless it makes financial sense.

And they are not development and planning experts, conscious of all the costs and legal issues of building in a low-lying housing regeneration area.

What happens if an enthusiastic islander pops along to the public drop-in on Thursday and suggests turning Leale’s Yard into a Disney theme park?

The Development & Planning Authority – through their agents Tibbald Planning and Urban Design – will nod, smile encouraging and throw it in the waste bin.

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For we know what will go on the site: housing, shops and perhaps some office space.

That was the plan as announced to great fanfare three years ago. A 400-home development with more than two acres of public space and private gardens.

The reaction was positive. There was some concern about traffic on the Bridge and the ability of the Vale School to cope with that many children but the general view was that something needed to be done. No one took to the streets to protest.

Sadly, the project never got off the ground and permission expired. The developers could not make the finances work and, in July, the Co-op asked for a States subsidy.

Only detailed negotiation and compromise between owner and government can solve the Leale’s Yard conundrum.

To pretend that a well-meaning member of the public holds the key is fanciful.

Shaun Green

By Shaun Green
Editor

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