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Statement by the President of the Development & Planning Authority

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Wednesday 25 November 2020

General Update

Madam, I am very pleased to be delivering this statement by the Development & Planning Authority today.

The D&PA's last update was delivered by my predecessor, Deputy Tindall, in September 2019. I would like to pay tribute to the very hard work of Deputy Tindall and her able Committee which positively influenced and laid the groundwork for a number of the matters which I am about to mention.

I am sure that most members will be familiar with the mandate of the D&PA, but it is worth just mentioning that we are responsible for advising the States on land use policy, developing and implementing land use policies through development plans and other relevant instruments and for planning decision-making.  I am also very grateful for the support of my Committee members, Deputies Andy Taylor, John Dyke, Sasha Kazantseva-Miller and Chris Le Tissier, whom are new to this Assembly but who have already hit the ground running and together bring a wealth of talent, experience and enthusiasm to the Committee table. Deputy Andy Taylor of course now occupies the position of Vice-President which I previously held.

Turning to the core business of the Committee, we are undertaking a number of actions which I would now like to summarise.

Following the approval and publication of the Development Framework for Leale's Yard Regeneration Area, in May, work has started on a single Development Framework for the three Regeneration Areas in St Peter Port, these being at Mansell Street/Le Bordage, South Esplanade, and the Lower Pollet.  We have commenced by talking to property owners, undertaking public consultation and creating a digital platform for engagement prior to drafting of the Development Framework itself. There will then be further consultation on the draft document in March and April with the target for final approval in June 2021. This work will help to unlock development opportunities within the Regeneration Areas and is likely to provide a catalyst for inward investment and revitalisation of Town.

Regarding Leale's Yard, , I am pleased to report that since adoption of the Development Framework there have been positive discussions with developers which should soon result in an outline planning application. We are working on Development Frameworks for allocated housing sites at La Vrangue and Fontaine Vinery, where there are opportunities to bring forward affordable housing development. The opportunities to provide affordable housing through the development of the larger allocated sites are very important, particularly given that we have achieved no affordable housing whatsoever to date through Policy GP11.  We welcome your comments on Development Frameworks when they are published in draft, which is the best time for people of Guernsey to get involved and influence what is being proposed.

The D&PA will have a key role in the regeneration of the St Peter Port seafront and my Committee have chosen me as a member of the Seafront Enhancement Committee. The D&PA also has responsibility for preparing the Local Planning Brief for the St Peter Port Harbour Action Area.

A Planning Inquiry for Longue Hougue South inert waste disposal site should be held in the first half of next year and we are currently working on the Local Planning Brief.  

Helping to tackle the effects of climate change, the D&PA introduced changes to Part L (thermal performance) of the Building Regulations in June this year and will work closely with the Committee for the Environment & Infrastructure and other subject experts on a wider review of improving the energy efficiency of buildings in accordance with the States' agreed Energy Policy.

On biodiversity, we have recognised the importance of taking a joined-up approach to the protection of nature by adopting E&I's Strategy for Nature Framework Document as Supplementary Planning Guidance which adds weight to the IDP's policies towards biodiversity and this is now being referred to when making planning decisions.

In other areas of planning policy, monitoring is still taking place, although principally due to the impacts of COVID-19 work on the 2019 Annual Monitoring Report has been suspended with a view to producing a more accessible AMR 2020 next year.  Quarterly monitoring of housing land supply and employment land supply continues.  Some technical reports have been produced, such as audits of  the Main and Local Centres, and some data gathering, such as in relation to the quality  of the current office stock in conjunction with the Committee for Economic Development, has commenced.

I and my Committee have taken comfort from the comments made by both the Presidents of P&R and Economic Development in their initial speeches which recognised the importance of early discussion with the D&PA to make sure that land use policies can continue to deliver the States' priorities and we look forward to working closely with and in partnership with Committees to help them to achieve their priorities.

We will act swiftly and decisively to amend the current land use policies within the Island Development Plan where change is required to facilitate the new priorities that emerge through recovery and the current policies are unable to accommodate them.  The interim review of the IDP in advance of the end of the current Plan period in 2026 will therefore need to reflect the new priorities which will be generated in particular from the work currently being undertaken at pace by the Policy & Resources Committee and the other Principal Committees.

Important land use aspects such as open land and greenfield development may also be considered within the emerging priorities along with, consideration of tackling the worst eyesore sites through use of section 46 of the Planning Law.

The D&PA looks forward to the conclusions of this process so that we can determine the best ways in which we can help the recovery including through the focussed review of the IDP.

We also wish to continue and build upon what has been achieved in the last term with regard to communications with the Douzaines, other stakeholders and with the public generally. My Committee is committed to conducting its business in an open and transparent way. Having timely, accurate and easily understood communications with the public and stakeholders is extremely important to us. We will shortly be asking the public for their top 10 questions to help focus our communications on the things that people most want to know about.

On the operational front, the impact of COVID-19 was felt keenly with delays to application processing and a backlog developing. To address this the Committee swiftly endorsed a fast-track system which is operating successfully to reduce timescales for more minor applications and free up staff time for  more significant projects. We are also looking to significantly broaden planning exemptions to reduce the amount of development which requires planning permission with a view to bringing a policy letter to the States early in the New Year and then initiating the necessary legislative changes. Extending the exemptions will help to encourage development and boost the economy by getting things moving, although it will also reduce my Committee's income.

A positive outcome of COVID was the move to advertise planning applications online avoiding the requirement for customers to physically view plans at Sir Charles Frossard House.  This is an interim measure pending full digitisation of the planning and building control application process which is being worked on with our partners Agilysis and which we hope will come to fruition in the first half of next year. Appointments can still be made to meet staff face to face at Sir Charles Frossard House where this is necessary and helpful, including to get help to view plans online.

Finally, I am pleased that so many States' Members have accepted the invitation to the event we will be holding jointly with the Committee for theEnvironment & Infrastructure on the 8th December at Beau Sejour to give an overview of the Strategic Land Use Plan and the IDP. 

We look forward to working with everyone to help facilitate the recovery and get Guernsey moving again.

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