My Plémont Speech

On December 12, 2012, in The Environment, by Lyndon-Farnham

Plémont – Speech delivered to the States of Jersey 12/12/2012 at 1640hrs

I would like to focus Members attention on the key points of the debate and begin by briefly touching upon the principles of compulsory purchase in such circumstances, and try to address the genuine concerns that some Members have, including myself, with reconciling their position with the reality of this process.

I was going to start by commenting on the claims that the process could be Ultra-Viries and the potential for a long drawn out appeals process but the Solicitor General has covered that position and I hope Members are, as I am, reassured with his very clear explanation to the Assembly this morning. And Members who are concerned about a precident being created with this should be mindful of his comments about the States deciding the public interest – give examples, ie Mont Orgueil.

Firstly, we are talking about purchasing the land, not taking the land but purchasing the land at a fair price and the price MUST be fair – and I believe Sir that if the proposition is approved then the process, as prescribed in law, will be fair and equitable in delivering an appropriate compensation to the owners. Contrary to other Members comments I have full confidence there are Valuers available competent enough to produce accurate, realistic and sensible valuations for this purpose.

Secondly, what is now clear is that we are not proposing to acquire a piece of land that the owner wishes to keep. The owner doesn’t want it. The owner wants to sell it He is hoping to sell it but just not to the States in the first instance – he would rather sell it to 28 individuals! Why? Well I thought I knew the answer … but clearly I don’t. Because if it was just about the profit then surely the owners would be willing to negotiate a fair price with the States. To that end Sir I ask Senator Bailhache, when summing up, to re-assure Members, that every possibility is explored to facilitate a successful negotiation with the owner before going to compulsory purchase. At an interesting presentation at lunchtime yesterday the owner’s architects confirmed that the owner is prepared to negotiate the sale of the land and would even consider a land swap if necessary.

In my own humble opinion, if the owner really wanted to build houses for local people it wouldn’t matter where. It strikes me that the owner could become the most popular person in the island overnight by; agreeing to sell the land to the National Trust at a fair price, and, By negotiating a deal with the States to provide land where he could build houses .. but not necessarily Million pound houses – Houses that we actually need, Affordable Houses, Houses suitable for our young people and first time buyers and Houses in a location that would facilitate this. The owners would still make their profit, and would be providing the island with housing it actually needed!

As I have previously stated publicly the environmental issue is unassailable, the financial argument is not so strong. However, for me Sir, the important question is about balancing the cost of the purchase against the VALUE of owning the land forever. Of course we have an important duty to protect the public’s finances but do we not also have a duty, in fact a powerful moral responsibility, to leave at least some of the land in a better condition than in which we inherited it? Sir, it gives me no pleasure at all to recall and remind members that the the States, in recent times, have wasted tens of millions of pounds on Mistakes whether it be the odd overspend or forgetting to hedge an exchange rate on a major building development we certainly have a track record. So clearly by comparison this has to represent a tangible and far sighted investment – and if, in the unlikely event Sir, future generations should consider it a mistake then at least they’ll have something to show for it. (Picture) Sir I would venture to suggest that the environmental marriage value alone of tying the ownership of this tranche of headland to the rest of the entire North Coast and National Coastal Park area is priceless.

I am acutely aware of the many other financial priorities that exist for the people of Jersey but whether we buy Plémont or not, In reality Sir it’s just not going to make a great deal of difference insofar as society will Always face demanding financial challenges. By comparison, in an island with a £90 million a year bill for income support it actually does not sound so ridiculous to invest a reasonable sum of money in such an important environmental project. I am reminded that we, as an Island, quite rightly, continue to give substantial amounts of Money, regardless of the economic climate, to other worthwhile causes – overseas aid springs to mind but of course I am not suggesting for one minute that we change anything there and neither would the vast majority of islanders. I am simply trying to demonstrate that a proportionate approach, regardless of fiscal pressures, is vital to maintain the (perfectly acceptable) balance our community wants and needs. Coincidentally, the Jersey Annual Social Survey for 2012 has just landed on our desks which demonstrates the great diversity of our community and its common interests and priorities.

In concluding Sir I would ask Members to please FOCUS on the issue, focus on the end product .. please DO NOT just count the emails and hearts and other correspondence and try to work out how many are in favour, and how many are against and then may try to represent that calculation with their vote today. Think ahead, vote for the future and not with half an eye on the next elections .. I am fully prepared and expect to be held accountable for my actions by the electorate but I also hope to be held accountable by future generations ..

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