Probing the parking puzzle
I START with a question: what do we expect when it comes to communication from our deputies?
My view is straightforward: I expect deputies to be open and provide accurate information which is not misleading. We should be able to take what they say at face value and trust that what they say is true and accurate.
I think that anything less should fall below the standards we all expect and must therefore be unacceptable.
For that reason I am particularly disappointed with a media release from the Education committee about parking at Les Beaucamps and St Sampson’s schools. It is worth quoting and analysing key parts of the statement:
‘The planning application confirms that on-site parking will be provided for 75% of staff at both Victor Hugo and de Saumarez colleges.’ Straightforward, tells us what they have applied for.
‘… complies with the States’ agreed policy …’. Again, straightforward – a States approved policy exists which they are following.
‘… which says that all new developments in the island – including school extensions or redevelopments in any education model – can provide parking spaces for a maximum of 75% of staff.’
This section unambiguously states that a policy, agreed by the States of Deliberation, sets a maximum limit on staff parking of 75% of staff for all new developments across the island, including schools.
Not only does the media release make the above statements, but it goes on to reaffirm them with a quote from Deputy Graham: ‘The proposals seek to provide parking for 75% of staff, however this is not a feature unique to the “two school model”. It is the maximum any new development is able to provide under the planning policies approved by the States …’
Therefore, a fair interpretation of their statement has to be that they said they have no option but to comply with a policy decided by the States of Deliberation which limits parking to 75% of staff.
All very good – except I can find no record of the States having approved any such policy.
Planning policies are defined in the Island Development Plan, 2016, a document approved by the States of Deliberation, and which describes itself as setting out ‘the land planning policies for the whole of Guernsey in a single document’.
As the ‘go to’ document when it comes to planning policies, it is a good place to start looking at the actual States-approved policies.
School parking comes under the definition Private and Communal Parking and the relevant policy on page 225 reads:
‘Policy IP7: Private and Communal Car Parking
In considering proposals for development, the Authority will take into account the provision of appropriate levels of private and communal car parking in accordance with the guidance set out in Supplementary Planning Guidance: Parking Standards and Traffic Impact Assessment.’
Note, there is no reference to any 75% limit but there is a reference to another document, so, let’s look at the Supplementary Planning Guidance document.
Section 1.2 of the guidance note states that the policies it contains apply ‘to the Main Centres and Main Centre Outer Areas’. Neither St Sampson’s High nor Les Beaucamps are in either of these centres so the planning guidance for them is contained within this section, which further confirms ‘general car parking and motorcycle parking requirements will be assessed on a case by case basis’.
Again, absolutely no reference to any limit on staff parking of 75%.
Even if its policies did apply to the schools’ locations there would be no limit. The table on pages 7 and 8 of this document details the parking policies for various types of development, such as housing, retail, offices etc. Schools are not separately identified so fall into the ‘Other form of development’ category, for which the policy is ‘assessed on merit’; again, no reference to a 75% limit.
This is also confirmed in the Arup report for Les Beaucamps. Section 2 deals with the policy context of the plans, with a table on page 5 stating the policy to be ‘assessed on the merits of the proposal’, again confirming there is no States agreed policy of 75%.
Based on this research, the Education media release is incorrect and misleading. Far from being subject to a limit, Education are at liberty to apply for as many parking places as they want.
Perhaps I’ve missed something. It’s possible, so I spoke to a leading Guernsey architect who confirmed to me that he did not know of any States approved policy limiting parking in schools to 75%.
So where did the 75% come from?
The Arup report on Les Beaucamps is not very helpful since all it says on page 25 is that the amount of parking will remain broadly the same.
However, the Arup traffic impact assessment regarding St Sampson’s High is a little more informative.
On page 27 the report says: ‘As part of the TIA scoping discussions, it was agreed that 135 parking spaces should be provided for staff, representing 75% of total staff.’
This is very clear – the level of parking which Education have applied for was agreed by discussion, not because of any States policy limitation.
So, it seems from the Arup report that far from having their hands tied by a policy limiting the amount of parking, as the Education media release implies, Education were free to apply for more parking spaces but decided not to do so.
Just to be sure, I contacted the Planning department, which has confirmed to me that the 75% limit was arrived at as reasonable provision through informal pre-application discussions, having regard to relevant adopted States planning policies and the transport strategy.
On the one hand:
. we have a media release from Education unequivocally saying that they were limited to applying for parking for only 75% of staff because of States approved policies which would cover all developments across the island.
On the other hand:
. the States’ own policy documents do not include any such limitation,
. Arup state the planning policies to be ‘assessed on merit’ rather than a 75% limit,
. Arup says the 75% was agreed by discussion,
. Planning confirmed the 75% was agreed through discussion.
Irrespective of the merits of whether or not 75% is the appropriate level of parking to be provided, we have a situation where Education issued a media release which is clearly incorrect and misleading in stating that the amount of parking they applied for was limited by a States policy, when such a policy does not exist, and others confirm the 75% was actually decided upon by agreement.
With this in mind, it is fair to ask two questions:
1. Should this level of misleading and inaccurate information ever be acceptable?
2. If Education are willing to release such an inaccurate statement, how can we trust the accuracy of other statements they make?
. All of the documents I have referred to are available on the Gov.gg website.