In recent weeks, we have been hearing of grand proposals regarding Guernsey’s future port facilities, not something that necessarily excites too many people, but it should, as I explain below.
In this period as we emerge from the pandemic, there is an inevitable desire to ‘do something big’ which gives us all raised hopes and expectations for the future of Guernsey.
However, doing the wrong ‘something big’ is worse than doing nothing at all.
The current port facilities are outdated and unstructured. The States commissioned a very professional report which looked at all of Guernsey’s options regarding port and marine leisure facilities. This report, rather encouragingly, advised that we can modernise our current infrastructure to produce a fully functioning port and enhance our marine leisure facilities whilst spending in the region of £27m. to £45m., with limited scope for costs spiralling out of control. This option was rejected by our politicians, despite fulfilling the stated goals and having little or no environmental impact.
It clearly didn’t meet the ‘big’ criteria. The consultants’ report included the ‘big’ option in a proposal to extend St Peter Port harbour further, enabling Guernsey to be on the schedule for the larger ro-ro ferries going near our island daily, but unable to stop in Guernsey (or Jersey) because of our current port facilities. This would enhance our connectivity and give us a strategic advantage over Jersey. This option was not favoured by the politicians either.
The only explanation for this seemed to be a desire to move all freight and ro-ro ferry traffic out of St Peter Port. If this was a key objective, why didn’t they tell the consultants that?
The political first choice was an option that moved some traffic out of St Peter Port, but in the process destroyed one third of a mile of our natural coastline and puts Herm at real risk of tidal erosion devastation. What is even worse is that it does nothing for our ro-ro ferry options. This option, which was to build a small freight port off Spur Point, seemed to ignore all the wisdom provided by the experts’ report.
Finally, we have the inevitable amendment to the supposedly well thought through and researched proposal. This amendment addresses the ‘unspoken’ desire to remove all ferry traffic from St Peter Port by building a larger port off Spur Point, but does not address the issue of enabling larger ferries to stop off at Guernsey, whilst still causing environmental destruction.
If we are going ‘big’, let’s get it right.
We are told that STSB supports this amendment to its amendment.
How can this be so, given it has just spent a year formulating its proposal and this has been apparently abandoned in a matter of weeks?
If we go down the ‘big’ route, we must make sure the proposal is ‘big’ on economic gain to offset the environmental and financial cost. As we will be building a structure out into some of the strongest tides in the world, we should also look to incorporate tidal power into the design to give something back to the environment.
Why should you care?
n The proposed developments are likely to cost over £500m. While this is capital expenditure, it still has to largely come out of your pocket one way or another.
n It will knock many other infrastructure projects off the list and so we need to be sure it is worth it.
n It carries serious environmental impact consequences and may genuinely threaten the existence of Herm as we know it.
So, think carefully before supporting this ‘big’ idea. Look at both sides of the consequences. Push to make sure if we do something ‘big”, it is the right ‘big’.