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Affordable homes plan under threat because drains can't cope

Affordable homes plan under threat because drains can't cope

Friday 10 March 2023

Affordable homes plan under threat because drains can't cope

Friday 10 March 2023

Plans to build 179 affordable homes in St. Peter are being put on hold after it emerged that the drains in the area cannot cope.

During last year’s Bridging Island Plan debate, States Members agreed to rezone five fields in the parish.

Four of the five fields were added to the affordable homes list after successful amendments to the Bridging Island Plan by the Constable of the parish, Richard Vibert, and then-Senator Kristina Moore.

Two of the fields are side-by-side directly opposite the Sir George Carteret pub, one is to the north of Verte Rue behind Clos de Ruez, and the remaining two neighbouring fields are behind Oaks Manor off Route de Beaumont.

Although approved for housing, the fields do not yet have planning permission nor have their owners received ‘supplementary guidance’ from Planning, which will set the perimeters of what can be built.

Capacity constraints

However, a more significant problem has emerged – the mains drains network in the area does not have the capacity to handle the extra demand.

It is understood that other fields rezoned for housing around the island face the same capacity issue.

St Peter fields Island Plan.png

Pictured: One of the fields destined for housing behind the parish's sheltered homes at Clos Le Ruez. It was added to the affordable housing list after a successful amendment by St Peter Constable Richard Vibert.

There is no current Government funding in place to upgrade the mains network.

Mr Vibert said the limitations with the sewerage network had only been discovered after the rezoning and was a significant problem.

"There is a historic backlog of underinvestment in sewerage infrastructure"

Speaking to Scrutiny this week, Environment Minister Jonathan Renouf said that a lack of capacity to deal with foul-water sewage was a concern and could mean holding tanks are built at sites to store waste.

St Peter fields Bridging Island Plan.png

Pictured: Two fields off Route du Manoir can collectively accommodate approximately 145 homes.

He said: “It is a serious issue and an intensive area of Government discussion at the moment. There is an historic backlog of underinvestment in sewerage infrastructure, particularly considering the increases in population which we have seen.

“There are significant bottlenecks in the sewerage system, which have been identified. We have put together plans to address them but the funding for that is a challenge.

“We are working ways to fund that programme of work in a way which will expedite those affordable housing site developments.” 

"There are other methods we can look at if it becomes critical"

He added: “There are other methods we can look at if it becomes critical, which involves not connecting up to the mains storage for a period of time, or not at all.

“But there is no question that the long-term solution is the investment that we need in the sewerage system.” 

Deputy Renouf said that the situation was “an area of worry”. 

St Peter fields Bridging Island Plan.png

Pictured: The fields off Route de Beaumont, which were added to the affordable homes list after successful amendment by Constable Richard Vibert.

“It is not something I anticipated when I took this role on; that that would be such a significant bottleneck. We do need to come up with solutions,” he said. 

“I don’t think there will be one solution but a range of them. 

“We have a sum of money, and it is tens of millions a year to make these investments. 

“It has to come from somewhere. It could come from reallocation of existing budgets, or reserves, or new taxes or from private contributions. In all likelihood, it will be a mix."

"The bottlenecks only appear at peak times"

He continued: “In crude terms, what we need to do is smooth out the flow of sewage. The bottlenecks only appear at peak times. What we need is storage facilities that can hold sewage at peak moments and release it into the system when there is capacity. 

“It is about holding tanks, basically, including where they go and putting them in there. It is not a complex solution, but it needs funding.”

The suitability of all the fields for rezoning were reviewed by independent planning inspectors before the Bridging Island Plan. 

They recommended that fields 'P558' and 'P559' were considered as possible affordable housing sites, together with field 'P632', but did not support the rezoning of the two fields behind Oaks Manor

Pictured top: One of the fields off Route du Manoir. (Jon Guegan)

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