The JeCC 2016 Debate, sponsored by Benest & Syvret, tackled the subject of Planning Obligation Agreements and the newly titled 'Jersey Infrastructure Levy'. It goes without saying, this invoked a lively discussion between the panel and the large audience who attended the annual event.
The panel, consisting of Deputy Steve Luce Environment Minister, Deputy Anne Pryke Housing Minister, Ralph Buchholz Strategic Housing Unit and David Parker, a UK property expert, were forthright in their differing views.
Senior politicians received a strong warning from David Parker, who is the chairman of housing consultancy Pioneer Property Services, who spoke at the debate on plans for the proposed community infrastructure levy, warning Ministers that they were ‘way off beat’ if they believed taxing developers to fund community projects and affordable housing would work.
Deputy Luce explained that the charge would make it clearer to developers what their financial obligations are at the start of a project, rather than introducing extra costs at the end of the process through the current system of planning obligation agreements.
However, Mr Parker urged caution in targeting the construction industry with a new charge.
After describing the UK’s community infrastructure levy programme as ‘a nightmare’, he advised authorities to begin by considering exactly what infrastructure or community improvements were needed and then to discuss with the population how to raise funds for those projects.
Deputy Luce stated that the proposed levy was being introduced to effectively assist with the regeneration of St Helier to which the audience expressed their frustration that this was only being targeted at the construction industry and should cover other industries who would benefit from the upgrades made to St Helier.
Some attendees felt that these proposals was just a re-introduction of the H3 Policy that was rejected by the industry. The Minister was told that the industry were not adverse to providing affordable housing and the question was asked as to why significant changes had been made from the 2002 Island Plan where in excess of 1,500 affordable homes were built and the panel were asked if it would be sensible to revert back to the original recommendations as this seemed to work for the Island. Ralph Buchholz stated that he didn't think this was the best option as this had been targeted at re-zoning and this was not the government's intention going forward.
A further question was also asked as to whether Deputy Luce knew at this stage what level these charges would be and he stated that this was still open for discussion but did question the industry as to whether they would rather know their charges up-front or whether they preferred receiving a Planning Obligation Agreement that could potentially increase costs to the end project significantly?
Deputy Luce made it clear that this was very much the start of the consultation period and encouraged industry to continue the dialogue and it is proposed that the JeCC Policy Sub-Committee will be taking this forward on behalf of the industry.
Martin Holmes, Chairman of the Council stated that 'the industry welcomed an early opportunity to discuss this very emotive subject; which was underpinned by the large turnout and strength of opinion. There is a clear need for Government to support housing development in the island, especially as we need over 1000 new homes by 2020'
He went on to say 'there was a clear message from our members that simply laying additional costs at the door of the industry through a proposed levy is clearly not the way forward particularly at a time when we are seeking to promote development at the earliest opportunity to meet the demand for much needed Affordable Housing. In this respect we look forward to further detailed dialogue with the Minister'.