Environment’s failings threaten Guernsey’s economic wellbeing
AFTER the 2016 elections I was hoping that the States would take a clean sheet approach to the Environment Department.
The level of antagonism between the department and the public over the previous years clearly required a change of tack.
Sadly this wasn’t to be.
The fact that the States saw fit to elect Deputy Brehaut to head the E&I Committee was a portent of things to come. A string of poor and costly decisions have followed.
A quick but not exhaustive look at their failings over the last few years would have to include:
n The widths and emissions debacle which led to a public protest at North Beach and the offspring of which is now causing problems for small businesses who need to source good but affordable vans to continue trading. The supply of such vehicles has all but dried up on island and the additional tax makes importing a vehicle an unattractive proposition. A shining example of a States committee failing to support small business.
n The installation of traffic lights for the 'data park' that is never going to happen. I am told that a set of traffic lights costs in excess of £100,000 plus fitting. These lights, which sit there gently rotting away, were paid for by the taxpayer.
n The installation of ‘temporary’ traffic lights at Bulwer Avenue that have since become permanent but appear to serve no purpose other than to impede the flow of traffic on a main arterial route.
Somehow the installation seems to have magically increased flooding on that piece of road for good measure.
n The shambles that was the Town seafront rearrangements, a costly failure that has left the road scarred with blotted out road markings, very attractive for our tourists and a nightmare for drivers in the wet or after dark when it becomes a guessing game as to which lines are the bone fide ones – not good for road safety.
n The Salerie Corner re-alignment – unnecessary, hugely over budget and arguably more dangerous for cyclists than the old arrangement.
n Provision of cycle hoops here, there and everywhere, mostly unused but all cunningly placed to take out a parking space when they could have easily been placed a few feet away without reducing parking at all.
n Failure to recognise their responsibility to public safety when it comes to the number of hours bus drivers are expected to drive.
n Repeating the mistake of a previous committee by purchasing buses that are not suitable for our roads.
n Failure to repair the wall at Fermain.
n Failure to address erosion at L’Ancresse and refusing to let the Commons Council take action themselves.
n Making a very poor decision regarding the anti-tank wall which will end up costing millions and deny us a much-loved beach kiosk and toilet facilities, not to mention an ongoing threat to two loophole towers, possibly some neolithic remains and the golf course. And of course the ongoing open-ended bill for fighting erosion, assuming of course that the decision to sacrifice the Common has not already been taken.
n Then there is the ridiculous electric bike subsidy which gave public money to private individuals to purchase a luxury item which most would have purchased anyway. Others who may have been more worthy candidates had to go into debt to fund their part of the purchase. I am not sure that government should encourage people to go into debt.
As I understand it there are no checks on these bikes to ensure that people keep them for the two years required, or even to confirm that they are being used and not simply shoved in the shed when the novelty wears off or the first rains of winter arrive, whichever is the soonest. There aren’t even any checks to make sure these bikes haven’t been shipped off to France for cheap holiday transport.
This committee couldn’t even make a decent job of organising one of their own dream projects.
Incidentally, if E&I are serious about getting more people out of their cars and onto bicycles they may want to engage in a programme of road improvements – the surface of so many of our roads is now abysmal. I haven’t ridden my bike for a while now but I imagine it must be a pretty unpleasant experience, constantly being pounded by defects in the road surface and running the risk of being pitched off by some of the bigger faults.
n Then we come to the current speed limit proposals, billed as a move to improve road safety, which would be a worthy aim... if it were true, but for some reason the majority of the public do not seem to support the proposed changes, possibly because 80 roads looks a lot like overkill. Not a road safety scheme then, rampant social engineering perhaps?
There are some very good reasons to abandon the current proposals.They will be bad for the economy. What E&I are missing in their zeal is that the island’s economy doesn’t rely only on office-based workers – it also relies on thousands of people in many different types of businesses being able to move around the island efficiently with the minimum of delays. Lost time does not only mean lost income for these people; it ultimately leads to less tax being paid.
Slowing everything down will not only lead to vehicles producing more emissions due to not running efficiently, it will also cause a concertina effect which will focus these extra emissions where the traffic is not able to flow. These will be bad news for those with breathing difficulties and likely lead to an increased physical and financial burden on the health services.
Modern diesel engines are equipped with systems to reduce emissions, unfortunately these systems do not function well at Guernsey speeds and rapidly clog up leading to clouds of black smoke under acceleration, higher emissions and poor running. Slowing the traffic down will lead to this problem being exacerbated, this has long-term financial consequences for businesses that use commercial vehicles and potentially the health services as well.
In the latest chapter of this saga it turns out that the public consultation on the proposed speed limit changes was a sham, the hardware to implement the changes having already been purchased.
The Environment & Infrastructure Committee are out of touch with reality, they do not represent the majority of islanders’ views and they pose a threat to the economic wellbeing of the island. They should resign and the States should replace them with a more pragmatic group of people.
La Milleaux Maisaon,
La Route du Braye,
Vale, GY3 5QS.