Monday, 10 December 2012

A View from Guernsey

A journalist friend of mine from Guernsey was over today and we met for a chat, and catch up on old times. We got to discussing certain matters in Jersey that have been in the news of late, and he gave me his very forthright views, which he's given me permission to put here online.

On Plemont, he thinks that given the current economic climate, it is very much the wrong thing to do. He sees it as a "vanity project" promoted by politicians who want to leave a "legacy", rather like Tony Blair, that they can point to after they have left office, and the "chattering classes", by which he meant vested rural interest groups such as the National Trust. In fact, he turns the argument on its head that the new hospital, school at St Martin etc will not be something that people will remember by saying that it is because they want to have a memorable legacy that politicians are keen on this proposal.

What he doesn't see it benefiting are the majority of Islanders, and he thinks it madness that such an expense should be spared when there are far more urgent matters. How much of the motivation behind saving Plemont is altruism? Is there a hidden agenda, not openly questioned, about whether it is a "legacy" or "vanity" project for politicians? It's an interesting point of view.

He also thinks that the States price of around 4-5 million is really absurd, and I agreed with him. I thought that this was is deliberately low, however, just as the developer's figure is pitched very high, so that there can be a "haggle factor" built into negotiations.  After all, 28 houses, say at a very conservative estimate of £500,000 (half a million each) gives 14 million as the value of the development.

But it is to do with what is termed "market value", which is really the wrong term. As Channel Television explains:

It's reckoned the total development costs - including a 15% profit for the developer - will be around £21.5m. The estimated value of the completed properties is close to £25.5m. The difference - £4m - is the estimated market value.

It isn't the market value, of course, it is the net market value, or the net profit made on the development sold at a market value of £21.5m, which makes a lot more sense. But the developer's calculation is at around 30% and incorporates the value of the land.

Mr Harding, the director of BDK Architects who designed the housing scheme for landowner Trevor Hemmings, said that the calculation was simple. On average, he explained, each house would sell for around £900,000. The figure is a combination of £300,000 land value per house, £300,000 build cost and £300,000 profit.

My Guernsey friend also thinks that selling States properties to purchase it would be an act of folly - "selling off the family silver", he noted. But he does think it could be sold to help fund a new hospital.

He thinks St Saviour's Hospital would be an ideal site - outside of school traffic, which is twice a day, the roads are pretty empty, and quite wide. And lots of room for expansion. Their hospital, Princess Elizabeth, is outside of Guernsey, with plenty of parking, and frequent buses which go right past the entrance to the hospital. His suggestion to politicians and people who think an out of town hospital won't work - come to Guernsey, talk to the hospital staff, talk to the people of Guernsey, talk to the politicians. It's a simple message: we've had one for many years, and do you know something - it works!

He also notes that the abuse of casualty for trivial complaints is less likely when it is out of town. People have to think first before they go to casualty, so genuine cases go, but trivial ones tend to screen themselves
out. That perhaps is something else worth thinking about.

In these days when better co-operation between Jersey and Guernsey is spoken of by politicians, how about some of them actually doing more than talk, and go to see for themselves how an out of town hospital manages? Before deciding on a site for a new hospital, perhaps that's worth doing.

Guernsey is, of course, not without its problems, and apparently the honeymoon period for their new government seems to be drawing to a close, with more opposition against fiscal austerity measures; he can see a tough ride ahead with difficult votes. Unlike Jersey, there seems to be a closer run thing with politicians opposing the government. A friend of his who was a politician thinks the present lot promised too much in the way of doing things differently, and now they are already seen to be doing very much the same as the lot voted out.

But on the government, he thinks larger constituency bases - as they introduced in Guernsey -work very well, as does another measure, the requette. For a politician to put forward a motion, they need seven signatures from fellow members of the States to do so, which stops frivolous motions which would only garner support from about 3 or 4 politicians getting off the ground.

A lot of the views I come across are from people who are disgruntled, come from the UK, and want to remodel Jersey along UK lines, which show how little they follow matters in the UK - a months reading of Private Eye should disabuse them of those notions. So it is nice to have a different comment from an Islander whose own Channel Island has moved along similar lines in many ways, and who understands that politicians may not necessarily fall into "left" or "right" on the UK model (something Annie Parmeter was always keen to point out as a form of "cultural imperialism", as she called it, from people who saw Jersey through the blinkers of the UK).

You may read this, and not agree with everything my friend says, but it is a view from our closest neighbour, our sister Island, where they do things differently, and in some ways, I tend to think, better.


Jonathan Renouf said...

Tony, I'm not sure I follow the argument of your Guernsey friend. A politician's motivation is irrelevant. The only question is: is a policy justified? I think that saving the Plemont headland for all islanders for all time is a wonderful objective, and justifies the States purchase of the site. It's a decision that tests how serious the island is about protecting and enhancing its most precious natural asset; namely its magnificent wild coastline. I hope with all my heart that the States vote to save Plemont.
Jonathan Renouf

Anonymous said...

A lot of the views I come across are from people who are disgruntled, come from the UK, and want to remodel Jersey along UK lines

If you want to play with the big boys, you play by their rules.

Andrew Myers said...

I think, guernsey’s economy is rapidly growing and being tourism is the main industry, it will grow more in years to come. Everyone wants to go to Guernsey, the reason is that it's a simple, affordable and pleasant place.