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Statement by President of the Committee for the Environment & Infrastructure

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Wednesday 22 May 2019

General Update


In my statement in December last year I concluded by concentrating on the seriousness of the threat from climate change and today I will continue on that theme.

Last month Members received a letter from Extinction Rebellion calling for Guernsey to declare a 'Climate Emergency'. The Committee agrees that this States now needs to increase the urgency and the efforts it makes to address the multitude of environmental issues that we face.

This Committee has within its mandate the responsibility to advise the States on policy matters relating to climate change, and we will bring a policy letter to the States with a climate crisis action plan in the first part of 2020.

It is clear that we need a more co-ordinated approach and a set of clear objectives across the States. Setting out a clear plan will also ensure that this critical work is supported by the resources it will need. We are currently working with the Policy & Resources Committee to address that point.

As we develop the plan, the Committee will continue to co-ordinate, sponsor and support the ongoing fight against climate change, through work on priority areas such as:

What is increasingly apparent, however, is that we need to act more rapidly and be bolder in our solutions.

We are currently considering the Independent Committee on Climate Change's Report to the UK, Scottish and Welsh Governments which recommends that the UK moves to eliminate all greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

The CCC recommends a significant increase in clean electricity supply to phase out fossil-fuel use particularly in domestic heating and transport. Our energy policy will similarly be signalling the transition to electricity and the reduction of fossil-fuel use.

It may be a cliché but there is no planet B to fall back on if this one becomes uninhabitable due to our actions focusing simply on the short term. It is also worth noting that a healthy economy is dependent on a healthy environment. It is not one or the other - the two go together.

The delivery of sustainable and integrated transport policy is fundamental not just to our environment but also to our economy and social equity. A greater range of alternative, affordable options provides access to transport for all, whilst safeguarding vulnerable road users.

This policy area provides essential support for the sustainable growth of the Island economy by providing access to businesses and services and the efficient and safe delivery and movement of goods, people and services around the Island. Inefficient transport will be a barrier to the delivery of many of the priorities in the Future Guernsey Plan. The policy will have a direct influence on creating vibrant, attractive and thriving locations, and will help to identify the strategic requirements for transport-related infrastructure.

The Committee is currently preparing a policy letter presenting the first periodic review of the Transport Strategy, which will be brought to the States by the end of 2019. This will review the progress in delivering the objectives agreed by the States, and the many projects and initiatives that have been completed or are in progress which support the objectives of the strategy to increase active travel as an alternative to car use. 32.2% - roughly a third - of Guernsey's carbon emissions are generated by transport, so I would hope Members will recognise the importance of this strategy in addressing the climate crisis, in supporting our community, and in supporting our economy.

I would however like to mention two specific developments. We continue to see rising bus passenger numbers with an 11% increase in Q1 2019 compared with the same quarter in the previous year with over 375,000 passenger journeys. Our analysis shows a growing number of commuters using public transport and this encouraging trend will help reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

The Committee is supporting the hospital modernisation through the funding of the preparation of a travel plan for the Princess Elizabeth Hospital. The Committee is heartened at Health & Social Care's commitment to this project. The travel plan will ensure that the hospital will successfully accommodate journeys by a variety of travel options, and also improve access to active travel, public transport and shared mobility services to meet the transport and mobility needs of everyone visiting the site.

The Committee is now working on a Long Term Infrastructure Plan. The plan will identify, co-ordinate and prioritise the investment required to deliver the long-term priorities of government, the community and the economy; and it needs to deliver the aspirations of the States' Policy & Resource Plan, and in doing so drive the investment priorities of the capital portfolio. We will be working with the Policy & Resources in that respect, and bringing an update to the States during the first quarter of 2020

This plan will include the consideration of our coastal infrastructure. Work is underway to identify the best solution for the failed wall at Fermain Bay. As everyone will be aware there has been rock armour placed along the line of the failed wall in an attempt to keep people out of the area for their own safety and this is also provide some additional protection to the foot of the cliff. We are actively monitoring changes to the cliff, and this work is feeding into potential options. However, due to the steep, narrow and winding access to the beach, delivering a solution is not as straightforward as at other sites around the coast, and the softness and steepness of the cliff behind the wall provide design issues.

The Committee has reviewed the initial options appraisal and are looking to construct a half-height wall in advance of the existing failed structure, in line with the 1990's rebuild which itself followed a failure of the original wall. Following an independent review of the options appraisal we will need to undertake a detailed design of the preferred option before undertaking a planning application which, given the location and development, would require an EIA.

Meanwhile, at L'Ancresse East, the Committee submitted a planning application on 6th November in order that the scope of the required EIA could be determined. The DPA has yet to advise the Committee of the EIA requirements, so the expected time for delivery is still unknown. Due to this delay it is now unreasonable to expect any works to be able to commence this year, and it is currently unclear whether they could commence ahead of the summer in 2020.

Part of the Committee's role is to improve the public spaces, and Traffic and Highway Services has been working to significantly improve Market Street. Not only will the street will be safer for pedestrians and easier to use for people with disabilities, it will be an area that is more attractive, and that allows businesses in the area to use the space more creatively, including through expanding al fresco opportunities.

Access times for the North Plantation now have been changed on a trial basis to provide a safer area for shoppers and more space for outdoor eating and drinking. The area is a well-known hot spot for restaurants and bars and it is expected that this scheme will create a more people-friendly environment which will enhance the area and support its businesses. One business is known to have applied already for a new al fresco licence.

The changes to North Plantation will provide an added attraction in the Town centre for Islanders and visitors alike.  I am confident that it will also benefit businesses in the area by allowing them to offer something more, and by increasing footfall.

Finally the Committee has been reviewing the impact of the voluntary charge of 5p on single use carrier bags in supermarkets. Members will recall that this was introduced in 2008, and has not been adopted by all types of retailers in Guernsey. One option would be for retailers to increase the charge substantially, but whilst it remains voluntary there remains a disincentive for businesses to lead. The Committee has decided therefore that it will be bringing forward proposals to ban the use of single use plastic carrier bags in the Guernsey. This will take time to develop the policy letter to initiate any legislation or changes to legislation and of course will require the support of this Assembly, but by announcing that we intend to bring forward changes we would hope that businesses can start planning for the future now.

On that note, I ask Members to act and support the Committee's proposals in the coming months. If our politics, with a small "p", in the past has been the art of the possible through compromise, then Politics, with a large "P" is about making the impossible achievable. The abolition of slavery, equality for women and universal suffrage were all radical heretical ideas once, before they became accepted and Political Leadership made the impossible achievable. We need strong leadership and action now for a sustainable future. It has been said that, "crisis is the sum of intuition and blind spots, a blend of facts noted, and facts ignored".

Our Committee hopes that Members will support us with our proposals in the remainder of this term, as we work together to ensure that our community's future in relation to climate change, energy, on-island transport and public space is resilient and sustainable.

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