A triumph of expediency over planning

IF NOT Belgrave Vinery, where else? asks the chairman of the new States Housing Action Group of its proposals to build up to 313 new homes on former agricultural land in the north. Yet the answer is obvious – and has been for years.

On so many levels – but primarily access, flooding and facilities – Fontaine and Belgrave Vineries are the wrong choices to create a new housing estate. An indication of the desperation involved is a suggestion a new road could be created to link with Victoria Avenue, worsening its already poor connection to Les Banques.

To those desperate to move into better quality accommodation or get a foot onto the property ladder, the Guernsey Housing Association’s scheme offers hope – but at the expense of blighting other areas better suited for this scale of development.

Leale’s Yard, a derelict brownfield site, is desperate for redevelopment and the Bridge area for regeneration. The States has said so and identified this very need. But Fontaine Vinery will be pushed through simply because government can.

It is largely responsible for any housing shortage. It has dithered on numbers needed, scattered planning permissions all over the north of the island with no prioritisation or influence on anything actually getting built, and failed to invest adequate sums into housing.

Broad acknowledgement exists that Leale’s Yard needs to be redeveloped, and that its local centre status with facilities and connections to support an additional 300-plus homes makes it the obvious site.

Indeed, the head of the housing action group, who is also president of the States Trading Supervisory Board, tacitly acknowledged this in supporting plans that would have led to the whole of St Sampson’s Harbour being used for leisure purposes, to the benefit of the Bridge as a whole.

But instead of government using its considerable resources to bring Leale’s Yard to fruition it risks it being permanently mothballed because it prefers a quick win at Fontaine Vinery.

If the priority is for rapid action on the easiest part of the wider site to develop, one can just about understand it. But the greater potential of Leale’s Yard needs to be actioned too, and soon.

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