It became obvious to me very early on as a member of HSSD that the ageing demographic of Guernsey would result in growing pressures on the department in the next ten years. We want to be able to see people supported to be able to live independent lives as far as possible in their own homes and that it is a major strand in the transformation of health and social care services that we are now developing. It makes sense economically and socially.
However, there is currently, and there will increasingly be, a need for specialist care homes for those of our community who can sadly no longer look after themselves as a result of dementia.
After a long saga of refusals and appeals, the application finally went to an open planning meeting. I spoke at the meeting and my speech is below. In it I focussed on the discrepancies in Commerce and Employment’s argument that Guernsey could not afford to lose the bed stock. I supported the planning application and change of use request for Green Acres whilst on the Commerce and Employment Board and I continue to believe that the Department needs to review its policy of opposing any application for change of use of existing tourist accommodation.
Common sense prevailed in the end and the application was granted.
Speech to Open Planning Meeting
“I would like just to focus on the adequacy of bed stock both now and in the foreseeable future.
The 65% occupancy level set by C&E is stated in the RAP supplementary booklet as
‘minimum occupancy rate which, it considers, will be necessary to sustain a viable sector. It states, and I quote ‘the quality of accommodation offered by the Island’s visitor sector has been in overall decline, relative to the market. This is probably due to a lack of investment resulting from low average occupancy figures.’
The cumulative average occupancy rates for the last 10 years has been 56.77%, lower than the 57.42% in 2004, with an all time low of 51.17% last year. Not only that, but this is signifcantly below the 65% minimum occupancy levels set by the Department. So the Department is actually resisting a planning application that supports its policy.
Reference to seasonal occupancy levels are a red herring. If demand increases in the winter period, hotels may look to open year round, or extend their operating periods, to meet it, especially if it means that the room rates they can charge do not have to be heavily discounted.
In terms of losing bed stock were Green Acres disappear, it shouldn’t be forgotten that it is not included in the Aries figure. Were it to be, given it is has zero occupation, the average occupancy levels will reduce further. It should also be remembered that plans were submitted and permission approved to build a new hotel with roughly the same number of rooms as Green Acres, just a mile down the road at Jerbourg.
In terms of the future adequacy of bed stock, reference is made to C&E having developed a policy for the future for tourism and that is to grow tourist population to 400,000 by 2025. It should be pointed out that this is an objective, forming part of its strategic plan. It has not been approved by the States of Deliberation and does not represent States policy. Set out in that strategy are action plans, some of which will require funding. The one that stands out being the extension of the runway. Given that the strategy has not been approved by the States and the Department will have to go to the States to obtain funding, the success of the strategy is far from assured.
Whilst it is an excellent document certain statements do raise question marks over comments made by the Department in its submissions.
For example, in its submission the Department makes the point that there are very restricted opportunities in planning terms for the development of new or additional visitor accommodation. However, in the strategy it lists one of its action plans being to facilitate access to States land and property for Tourism Development. By resisting this application it implies that the Department doesn’t hold out much hope of success.
Finally, and going back to the objective of increasing the tourist population to 400,000 by 2025, this represents a 25% increase in tourist numbers. If it is assumed, and there is no reason to believe it shouldn’t be, that this will also mean a 25% increase in staying visitors, there will still be sufficient capacity to absorb the increase for the next 10 years based on occupancy levels over the last 10 years, averaging just 57%.
It is clear that there is a surplus of bed stock that is unsustainable. Far from seeing Green Acres as a problem, this should be seen as an opportunity both to maintain a sustainable and viable tourist sector, and to support a desperate need for members of our community.”