Guernsey Press

‘It isn’t too late to stop the rot’

The fight to preserve our community might involve a great sacrifice for homeowners, but Horace Camp is all for it


I WAS somewhat perplexed by Deputy Andrea Dudley-Owen’s return to social media with outpourings of optimism and light when some may feel she is the carrier of much of our pessimism and darkness. However, full marks for trying to convince us that all is well in the State of Guernsey. For indeed much is.

We are after all a resilient people and have endured greater hardships in the past and come through smiling as a stronger and more aligned community. Indeed, given that this States has achieved pretty much zilch since it was elected, which incidentally was the last time Deputy Dudley-Owen engaged with us on Facebook, it is odd that much of our pessimism emanates from it. Perhaps if we had a completely opaque States which worked up its plans in secret, debated them in secret and didn’t tell us the result of all the policies which failed to win approval, most of them, then we wouldn’t feel as troubled as we do now?

And perhaps by not actually knowing what they were working on we would feel happier in the belief they were working hard to solve the greatest problem facing us today, rather than messing around with our children’s future prospects and frightening us with dire warnings about our future fiscal security.

It would be reasonable to assume that it is pressure being brought upon islanders with familiar surnames to actually continue a long family relationship with our gem in the sea that keeps our leaders awake at night. However, there appears to be little interest to encourage us to stay when replacing us still seems to be much easier.

I appear to have been luckier than many of my peers in that all my progeny are still on-island and able to, grudgingly, run around and do my shopping and other errands. I’m fully aware of my Dad’s saying that you never see young birds feeding old birds but on the other hand most birds tend to come back home when it’s their turn to lay eggs.

If breeding pairs of birds failed to produce offspring at the rate our breeding pairs are failing to produce children then I’m pretty certain the States would soon have a policy to solve the problem. If there was a lack of housing for barn owls then owl boxes would appear all over the island at the blink of an eye. Although, of course, mainly in the north.

If Microtus Arvalis Sarnius was on a path to extinction then be sure all would be done to preserve our very own Guernsey vole but Natus Loci Sarniensis gets no encouragement whatsoever even though it is in terminal decline.

If Deputy D-O and her crew really want to make us happy and full of optimism I would suggest spending whatever time this Zombie Assembly has left in the useful pursuit of making this island fit and desirable for islanders to want to live in. As it currently stands, even I believe my grandson’s best future is not to be had here in the island of his birth.

He is my only grandchild and should he choose to leave and not return then the connection of an unbroken line of ancestors going back centuries to our Rock will be severed.

That may not mean much to many of you, but it certainly does to me.

I know from a practical perspective that he can easily be replaced as part of our population policy by bringing in a candidate more suited to our principal industry, but is that not a big change from when we imported work to keep us on-island? Now work imports people to keep it going. The partnership between people and industry has changed. Once it served the communities needs, now it is the community and nomads serve it.

I think I’ve dragged the mood down a bit. I will pause now and take some of my happy pills.

OK, they’ve kicked in now, so let’s consider how to make Guernsey attractive to our people with deep roots here.

These firm roots need a lot to uproot them but the hurricane force winds have been blowing for years and they need some help to stay firmly planted.

As the States moans and moans about the lack of spending on infrastructure over the years, it only focuses on airports, ports and golf courses. It has for decades completely ignored building homes for workers. There was a letter in Wednesday’s Press noting that the Millbrook Estate was the last big States Housing project. I’m pretty sure they were built around the time I was born. The letter writer was a bit off track because there have been others since, but not many and not this century.

By my back-of-a-fag packet reckoning and comparing with the UK, we are about 1,000 States houses short. And I’m saying ‘States houses’ not ‘affordable housing’ because I don’t have the GHA ‘buy your States house and pay rent’ model in mind.

With 1,000 rental homes short, no wonder the private rental market found a void to exploit and drove the huge increase in rents. And with 1,000 private properties being rented then the number of homes available to buy has been reduced by 1,000. What happens when you reduce supply and increase demand? The answer is you get the second-most expensive property market in Europe.

I’m afraid the States of Guernsey has over many years created a toxic environment which has proven deadly to our community. It isn’t too late to stop the rot. We may not be able to solve climate change by ourselves but there is still time to save Guernsey.

Climate change mitigation is much easier. We can plant a huge forest in Scotland and say we have done our bit. Saving our people will be much harder and much more painful.

This Assembly should unite as an Assembly of all the Talents to fight a war that must be fought. Namely a war to preserve our little, deep-rooted community.

To do this we need to build 1,000 houses. Our housing market needs a very painful reset. Rents and house prices must come down in real terms and become truly affordable. This will mean huge losses in book value and negative equity.

In war there will be casualties, and at this tipping point for Guernsey there can be no greater sacrifice than to see the value of your house fall to a level where your grandchildren can afford to buy one.