No place for derelict vineries in the new development plan, by Trevor Cooper
Thursday 5th September 2013, 5:00PM BST.
ONLY 10 days of public consultation remain for the Environment Department’s revision of the Rural and Urban Area Plans, including the destiny of derelict vineries.
The Strategic Land Use Plan is the blueprint for future land use and development approved by the States in 2011. Depending on public response during this consultation period, the SLUP will form the basis of the new Development Plan, the working document that will govern the changing face of Guernsey over the next 10 years.
The SLUP offers four broad uses for redundant horticultural sites. Contributing to either agricultural or open land are the first two listed, followed by their potential development for a range of uses within or around the prescribed main and local centres. The fourth broad use refers to exception sites for small-scale business development or other appropriate uses outside the local centres.
In the Key Messages, Issues and Options booklet issued at the beginning of the seven-week consultation period, is a section headed approach to agriculture and redundant vineries. The opening paragraphs suggest that suitable areas near established agricultural operations should be protected in the promotion of a viable agricultural industry.
The Environment Department has pin-pointed 253 redundant vineries, with this number likely to increase. More than 180 are immediately adjacent to land in agricultural use and, once again, the report states that returning these redundant vineries to agricultural use could make a significant contribution to the sector.
Several redundant vineries that occupy visually prominent sites, particularly in the north of the island, might contribute to tracts of open land in terms of landscape character, habitat and visual amenity.
Incorporating smaller redundant sites within domestic curtilage or other neighbouring use might also be considered.
Only 15 derelict or redundant vineries are located in or near the local centres focused on in the report. Nevertheless, these are seen as an opportunity to provide visual amenity, open spaces or as suitable for mixed uses.
Thirty sites have been recognised as offering potential for small-scale business development or other appropriate uses outside the main and local centres. For these to be considered as exception sites will depend on their assessment of access, employment area location, open amenity value, neighbour impact and other strategic priorities.
Later reference says demand for builders’ yards, storage, parking of plant/machinery, etc. needs to be established. This contradicts an earlier statement recognising that existing sites are in the hands of the few to the exclusion of the many, particularly smaller firms unable to compete for industrial or commercial space with larger companies.
Suggestions put forward during the last consultation process were for low-rent, basic accommodation for low-value-added service industries. Agricultural and dairy holdings, horticultural holdings, manufacturing, countryside pursuits, farm shops and reclamation yards were all suggested as suitable for redundant greenhouse sites outside the main centres.
Concern was voiced about the creeping urbanisation of the countryside. Circumstances in which development of redundant greenhouse sites for recreational use might be appropriate included woodlands, keeping of horses, a golf driving range and provision for allotments.
There was strong support for all forms of renewable energy and micro renewable generation where it would not be detrimental to neighbours. This topic, incidentally, was raised in a previous article of mine that questioned the effectiveness of early solar panels, as opposed to photovoltaic, and I’m grateful to Peter Le Feuvre at Design Village Ltd for enlightening me with a first-hand demonstration of the simplicity and remarkable effectiveness of the new generation of solar panels.
But what about housing?
The Key Messages, Issues and Options booklet states that general support has also been shown for redundant glasshouses to be redeveloped for housing providing they are within local centres or within a developed area, also referred to as sustainable locations.
However, any other correlation between derelict vineries and new housing is muted in the booklet. An early paragraph in the section headed Housing states that the increasing number of ‘households in need of housing’ (not necessarily ‘new dwellings’) is a requirement that can be met by better use of existing housing through subdivision, conversion of existing buildings and bringing vacant stock back into use, as well as building new housing.
Other examples include the redevelopment or conversion of buildings in other uses (such as rural buildings and hotels), redevelopment of car parks, previously developed vacant/derelict land and buildings and development of back gardens.
The supply of housing land for the next five years clearly focuses on the ‘Call for Sites’ whereby the public propose appropriate sites for potential development. This new approach is not a blank sheet of paper because the sites must fall in or around the prescribed main or local centres, with no assurance that the sites will be granted planning permission.
This will, however, determine the willingness of owners to have their land developed – not always as likely as some might think – if building approval is granted. Other sites will still be considered in the future but the purpose is to gauge availability before the Environment Department deliberates the suitability of suggested sites.
It is also likely that new developments will be subject to planning covenants to help deliver affordable housing.
This is another new approach for Guernsey, although widespread elsewhere. Planning covenants, also known as planning agreements or obligations, will stipulate that development sites of more than five dwellings will include a percentage of affordable housing. Between 20% and 30% is suggested, but varying options are also possible.
Affordable housing is defined as social and intermediate housing, the latter including part ownership or low cost ownership for those who cannot meet the full cost of renting or buying on the private housing market.
Planning covenants can also require a contribution to public works needed in the area as a result of the development.
Another alternative is that land in lieu of dwellings is provided by the owner for the Guernsey Housing Association, or similar organisations, to build affordable housing.
It may also be appropriate, the report continues, to introduce thresholds to limit the area of a site used for any particular purpose.
Redeveloped or not, policies to facilitate the removal of redundant horticultural sites will be introduced.
The 60-page booklet stresses that its purpose is to stimulate opinion and discussion. All responses will inform the preparation of the draft Development Plan, expected to be published next spring. An independent planning inspector will consider further representations both for and against the proposals and, subject to a public inquiry scheduled for autumn next year, the new Development Plan will be put forward for States consideration in 2015.