Wednesday 24 November 2021
Sir, I am very pleased to be delivering this statement by the Development & Planning Authority today.
The D&PA's last update was delivered in November 2020. Since that time, the Government Work Plan has been approved and, as with all States' Committees, the Authority is prioritising its work accordingly.
As Members will be aware, two important policy letters have recently been laid by the D&PA for debate in December.
The first relates to extending the existing planning exemptions for a wide range of developments. I am happy with this and that our Policy Letter has been so well received by the public and in the media. As well as bringing significant benefits for customers and the community by removing many existing requirements for planning permission, these proposed changes will help to streamline the development process and make sure our resources are focused in the right places. The proposed changes to the Exemptions Ordinance will remove unnecessary red tape for the whole community. They will significantly relax the rules on green energy installations, helping in the fight against climate change and supporting the States' Energy Policy. We are also helping to facilitate community growing initiatives through a more relaxed approach to small-scale incidental development such as sheds and polytunnels.
In addition, we are proposing a specific exemption dealing with the change of use of visitor accommodation following discussions with the Committee forEconomic Development. The aim of the exemption is to enable a specific group of longstanding in effect redundant and derelict sites that no longer add value to the tourism industry, to be brought back into use for an economic or social positive gain.
We have submitted a second policy letter proposing the extension of the existing temporary exemption for planning permission for certain changes of use of visitor accommodation. This proposes to continue to support the demand on housing and visitor economy through 2022 by allowing such temporary charges of use which will also help to alleviate the current challenges of accommodating workers in the short term. We had around 30 temporary exemption notifications during 2021, showing how effective the exemption has been.
In addition, the D&PA is working on a suite of projects aimed at enabling opportunities for regeneration.
The Development Framework for the Town Regeneration Areas has now been finalised and this completes one of the GWP workstreams. This is an important step in helping to bring forward development and investment in Town and to provide opportunities for much-needed development such as for housing. However, we believe that Deputies should be generally comfortable with the content before it is published and to this end the Authority is holding a briefing session for Deputies. This has been arranged for the afternoon of Wednesday 8 December. Please accept the invitation which has been sent.
I would like to emphasise the importance of attending, as we would like to be able particularly to discuss the next steps with States' Members. The DF process has seen a good level of engagement from the community with an enthusiasm for change and this must not become just another plan on a shelf. We need to discuss how the DF can and should be used and how it can inform, influence and support other Government workstreams and Committees' work to make sure it drives forward investment.
The Main Centres of St Peter Port and The Bridge can accommodate a very wide range of uses including significant residential and commercial development to meet our community's needs. This will help to sustain and enhance their viability and vitality in the face of local and global changes.
As part of this package of work, the Authority has instigated a developer forum comprising of key industry figures which will be meeting for the first time in early December. This forum is an opportunity to open dialogue and build a relationship which will improve matters for all. We expect to discuss a range of issues which are experienced by developers and ways in which specific forms of construction activity can be encouraged, for example to provide more Town Centre housing.
The D&PA is also represented politically on the Housing Action Group and is playing a significant role in the delivery of housing to meet the Island's needs, for example through preparation and publication of the Development Framework for the Belgrave Vinery and by working closely with other Committees.
We have also proactively taken specific measures to facilitate housing and other developments. For example, Members will recall that we have relaxed the thresholds where a Development Framework is required, following which we have seen a notable increase in proposals for medium-sized housing schemes of between 10 and 20 units, with several new developments of this scale currently coming forward. We are also taking a more permissive approach to proposals for conversion of secondary and tertiary offices to housing, which has potential to provide a substantial number of new units in highly sustainable locations.
Linked to this, starting in 2022 the Authority will be working on examining options more generally for incentivising investment through Enterprise Zones. Officers have already begun to scope this project. This is aligned with other Government work streams and we will work closely with other Committees to deliver a consolidated and comprehensive set of options.
Our Officers continue to be involved with the Seafront Enhancement Area and it is anticipated that Local Planning Briefs for St Peter Port and potentially St Sampson Harbour Action Areas will be brought forward by the Authority in 2022. This is the next important step to enable positive changes and development of our harbours and seafront that can make a real difference not only to economic opportunity but also for the community and the environment.
The Authority and Planning Service will also be working with other Committees to apply subject matter expertise for example in considering the potential future strategic use of Les Vardes Quarry. Following the recent States' decision on the Island's future aggregate supply, the Authority has finalised the Development Framework for quarrying at Chouet. This sets out ways in which proposals should mitigate impacts on the surrounding area and a planning application accompanied by the necessary Environmental Impact Assessment is expected shortly.
The Blue Economy and Green Economy Supporting Plans are important parts of the Government Work Plan and the Authority is very much looking forward to contributing to these programmes. We are supporting the Strategy for Nature by taking forward the good start we have made in reducing and mitigating the impacts on biodiversity as a result of development through helping to develop a Guernsey-appropriate Biodiversity Net Gain tool. This would be applied through the Planning system. Initial steps towards this have already been made by requiring evidence of a biodiversity gain in relation to curtilage applications.
We are also progressing our proposals for an Ordinance under section 46 of the Planning Law to provide the teeth needed to deal with derelict and other eyesore sites. A policy letter on this is being finalised for submission in the New Year.
The Planning & Building Control digitisation project is also in progress and the digital portal for planning applications, is expected to be available for use in February 2022. This project is part of the wider O-TOM and has so far enabled the D&PA to return £142,000 of recurring savings from its budget.
Application timescales are currently meeting targets with a limited number of applications over 13 weeks old. These are generally deferred, amended and progressing to decision, waiting for a response from an applicant/agent or waiting for key consultation responses.
Sir, I hope that this brief update provides Members with a useful overview of the current work of the Authority and what can be expected from us soon. I look forward to seeing Members at the forthcoming briefing on the Town Regeneration Areas Development Framework and also their support for extending the planning exemptions and for extending the temporary exemption for visitor accommodation. I would now be pleased to take any questions.