Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Guernsey Watch

Guernsey Watch

An occasional look at our sister Island...

A New Meaning for "Air Mail!"

An extraordinary piece of blue sky thinking emerged at the Guernsey Chamber of Commerce Lunch, where the Chief Executive of Guernsey Post declared that: “One day the Bailiwick’s post might be delivered by drone”.

He was not, however, looking at services for Guernsey, but to the other islands in the Bailiwick. He said: “I sincerely doubt we will see drones delivering all over the island, but I do think it presents an interesting opportunity for connecting the islands”

Comments in the Guernsey press generally took this with a pinch of salt, and the best was probably this one:

Let’s prefix this with "I hate people talking rubbish about trendy tech topics that they try to apply to xyz when it's actually nonsense."

For a start, the research and development, programming, people employed to manage said drone, legislation currently being against it, testing, before you've delivered your first package you've spent 100's of thousands.

Ok, so we've got a drone, it's useful payload is about 5kg let's say, that's going to be a big drone, it could probably do all the letters to say Alderney in maybe ten trips, maybe 1 or 2 parcels at a time, say it's travelling at 50mph (very optimistic) and going as the crow flies, time to get up to speed, course, say it's about 15-20 minutes in the air, say 15 trips, that's about 4.5 hours to get everything over at the very best ignoring unloading, swapping batteries, reloading etc, so maybe 6 hours to account for all the maintenance and ground time, so you start at 7am, you don't get the last item on the ground by till 1pm.

You could have just loaded this all up on a single plane that's flying to Alderney anyway (swap plane for boat and Alderney to any other island) and it will all have been there in a half hour or less, for no overheads of additional staffing, no research, no expensive equipment, no maintenance, larger airframe can fly in all weathers...

This is all assuming we get no losses of aircraft, drones are light and prone to failure, can't fly in high winds (we get a lot of that)

Plight of the Condor

The review from Condor revealed that “services meet critical needs” This is the first comprehensive service review, and it identified two critical needs: These are to provide a safe, compliant and sustainable lifeline ferry service for both freight and passengers and a reliable year-round freight service.

Comments, as might be expected, were critical:

“But the Liberation still can't dock when there is the slightest hint of a breeze.”

“Do you really need 156 pages to say that? People don't like, they don't want it, and it’s putting people off coming to the Islands.”

“Out of our last 5 trips, 3 were disrupted or cancelled -not good eh Mr Luxton? I don't expect the remains of our tourist industry will agree with this piece of whitewash! I can’t comment on the freight services, my concerns are with our failing passenger services.”

And this was a rather tongue in cheek look at how the review might have been conducted:

Is it a boat? Yes - tick
Does it float? Yes - tick
Does it sink? No - tick
Does it sail in bad weather? - come back to that one
Does the timetable encourage more tourists? - come back to that one too.
Back to...............Does it provide Costa Coffee? Yes -tick..........

But at the heart is the fact that the persistent failure of the service means it may provide a reliable year round freight service, as the review says, but not a reliable passenger service. This comment gets to the heart of the issue:

“I organise short sporting breaks over here. I was filling about 200 bed nights per year and rising, this year it has been 8 bed nights. The reduction is purely because of the Liberation, some will not return because they found the crossing too unpleasant but the main reason is the unreliability.”

“Most of the visitors come for a long weekend and drive down from the Midlands or the North and are not willing to gamble the time and fuel costs on a boat that may not sail.”

The Falling Tower

The tower and spire of Torteval church is leaking and crumbling, and may need the Parish to take out a £300,000 loan to pay for half a million pounds-worth of work which is desperately needed.

Guernsey Press explains the problem:

“A leaflet explaining the choices is being sent out to more than 500 parish electors and ratepayers, detailing how steel supports have rusted through, lintels are crumbling and steps are falling out of the walls. Around £2,000-worth of scaffolding is currently holding up the inside of the tower and spire.”

“The problems were caused by years of water ingress, but the seriousness of the issue was not realised until a full structural report was produced in 2015. The letter sent to parishioners said that while the attractive option might be to do nothing or allow the structure to fall down, the building was 200 years old and protected, which means the planners can intervene if urgent work is required.”

So why does the Parish have to pay?

One commentator made this plain:

“Churches/Rectories apart from Vale are owned by ratepayers and parishioners. Under the 1928 parochial law the church can ask for a remede for the said R/P to decide whether they want to approve. At the parish meeting when all electors and ratepayers vote yes or no on all the individual items. If approved the constable goes to the Royal for Jurats to levy this rate. If at the parish meeting some items are not approved, as they own the properties, I believe they may be forced to pay. The vote on the remedes is the most democratic system you can have, as each individual has the right to attend voice his opinion and vote how he wishes.”

“The guidelines as there is no law was the church pay the ordinary repairs (inside of both church and rectory) and parishioners extraordinary repairs (outside) but this had changed because of the term now used ‘ingress of water’."

It is a cruel irony because the church replaces an ancient Parish church from around 1,000 AD which fell down, and was demolished.

As heritage goes, Torteval church is a fairly recent addition, being only about 200 years old. John McCormach, in his book on Channel Island Churches, only looked at the Medieval one, considering the replacement not of historical significance to look at in detail.

Perhaps they should do what the congregation of St Columba’s church in Jersey did, and remove the tower and spire. The rest of the church building would remain for the use of the congregation.

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