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Statement by the President of the Development & Planning Authority

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Wednesday 19 October 2022

General Update

Sir, The D&PA's last update was delivered in November 2021. Since that time, the Authority has made  progress in several different areas, supporting the Government Work Plan, and is now gearing up for a focused  review of the Island Development Plan, which I will explain more about in a moment.

In December 2021, we brought proposals to the States for the review of Planning Exemptions and also for extension for a further year of the temporary exemption for change of use of visitor accommodation to housing. Since then, the detailed work on drafting the Exemptions has been carried out and the new Exemptions Ordinance, covering a wide range of developments including renewable energy equipment and for community growing initiatives, will be placed before the States in February. We have also just laid Regulations for a further extension of the temporary exemption for visitor accommodation, which will assist in alleviating current problems with the supply of key worker housing in the short term.

In relation to housing, we have current major planning applications for affordable housing developments at the Fontaine Vinery and Saltpans allocated housing sites.  We have the outline application for Leale's Yard targeted for Open Planning Meeting on 16 November. In July we considered the revised application for Pointues Rocques and plans for redevelopment of Les Ozouets Campus for the Guernsey Institute and Sixth Form Centre.  We are following up with the relevant States' Committees concerning the improvements to transport infrastructure which were proposed and agreed as part of both these schemes. We have also recently considered the application from Ronez for quarrying at Chouet.

In accordance with the relevant States' Resolution, we will be ready to produce the Local Planning Briefs for the Harbour Action Areas at St Peter Port and St Sampson and deliver them within 18 months of when the necessary strategic direction has been agreed by the States regarding the future port infrastructure.  Preliminary work has already commenced to ensure that this timescale is met.

During the past year we have produced and published Development Frameworks for sites in Local Centres at The Mallard and L'Aumone. Both will make a small but important contribution to the housing stock and help to consolidate the Local Centres as focal points for the community.  We are working with stakeholders to bring forward La Vrangue and other housing sites such as Castel Hospital. Work is due to commence imminently on the Business Park site Development Framework which will be key to bringing forward comprehensive and effective development on the site and co-ordination of transport infrastructure in the area.

 We are also very pleased and welcome the first Community Plan, produced by the St Peters Douzaine under enabling policies of the IDP. This followed exemplary public consultation and on approval by the Authority will form supplementary planning guidance to be taken into account when considering development proposals for the area concerned.

Regarding biodiversity, we are continuing to apply the concept of biodiversity gain through the planning system. We are grateful to officers  working in Agriculture and Land Management Services for their expert assistance in preparing guidance on biodiversity enhancements in relation to applications for curtilage extensions, which will be published shortly.

To complement its other work on enabling opportunities for regeneration, which have included publication of Development Frameworks for Leale's yard and the Town Regeneration Areas, new exemptions and other measures designed to encourage housing in the Centres, the Authority has been working on proposals for an Ordinance under section 46 of the Planning Law. This will enable the Authority to tackle eyesores in our urban centres and rural areas and thereby to support the Government Work Plan. Examples of matters that could be addressed include derelict premises or unsightly redundant visitor accommodation establishments. Such powers would also play an important part in securing revitalisation and acting as a deterrent to prevent the future creation of eyesores through dereliction and neglect.  The Authority's policy letter has now been submitted following recent positive consultation with Policy & Resources Committee,  the Committee for the Environment & Infrastructure and the Island's Douzaines.

I was very pleased to participate in the British-Irish Council Summit which was held in Guernsey in July this year. This focussed on the contribution of spatial planning to town revitalisation and building better places and included a site visit in St Peter Port. This was a positive opportunity to meet with Ministers with responsibility for planning from across the BIC administrations and to share experiences and learn from best practice.

We are also involved in other areas related to the Government Work Plan, such as the Guernsey Enterprise Plan, contributing to the States' Strategic Housing Indicator workstream, involvement with the future use of Les Vardes Quarry, and looking at options for improving energy efficiency standards for buildings.  We are also producing, pursuant to States' Resolution, a policy letter examining use of tariffs in lieu of affordable housing, and will consider the draft Policy Letter in January.

On operational matters, the Authority continues to deal with a high volume of planning and building control applications, and related matters such as pre-application advice. The number of planning and building control applications received rose from 1,747 and 915 respectively in 2019 to just under 2,000 and 1,000 respectively  in 2021. Pro-rata figures for 2022 show a further increase, with over 1,000 building control applications estimated for this year. This and the steady flow of Immunity Certificates relating to the purchase of property is testament to the Island's continuing strong economic position post-Covid.  Regrettably, progress towards a new digital portal for planning and building control applications was paused this year due to circumstances beyond our control, but I am pleased that this has now re-started and am hopeful that the new system will be in place next year.

I will now turn to the most important part of this update, concerning the review of the Island Development Plan.   It is proposed that this be a proportionate review, not touching all areas of the Plan but focussing on those policies which have been identified through feedback and highlighted through monitoring, such as housing including land supply, Affordable Housing and Policy GP11; employment land supply, the policy approach to agricultural land including the concern over loss of land to domestic curtilage; importance of protecting and increasing biodiversity; ensuring sufficient breathing space within the Main Centres, the policy approach to the provision of visitor accommodation, infrastructure and public amenity issues. 

The importance of focus for the review is not reflective simply of the need to use our resources wisely and to best effect, but is also a function of aiming, as the Authority wishes to do, to have the review completed and to report to the States for decision before the end of this term of Government in 2025.  Having served on the Authority for two terms now, I am very aware of the difficulties that can arise when major pieces of planning policy work span different terms of Government. We saw this very starkly with the IDP itself. The Authority wishes to avoid this situation recurring and I hope that colleagues will agree with both this aim and the consequent need for discipline to ensure that only the salient issues are considered as part of the review.

For completeness, the Authority will also be progressing a separate but allied workstream running alongside the IDP review to examine options for streamlining the legal process to make IDP Policy amendments.

The Authority will be considering the scope of the review in more detail before the end of this year and will be consulting on its proposals as regards the matters to be included early in 2023.

In conclusion, we remain engaged, open and transparent as a Committee, with a commitment to open outreach. This is through, for example public drop-in sessions such as we held on 15 October, meetings with developers and other stakeholders to obtain feedback and Open Planning Meetings, of which a number are coming up. We help facilitate the GWP and Budget, for example through our work on the Regeneration Areas. I would add that we deliberately have not increased application fees to help support the construction industry in these inflationary times.

Sir, I would now be pleased to take any questions.

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