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Comment: It's time to re-consider the bridge to France

Comment: It's time to re-consider the bridge to France

Tuesday 11 September 2018

Comment: It's time to re-consider the bridge to France

Tuesday 11 September 2018

It might sound like a far-fetched idea, but is building a bridge between the island and France based on misguided fantasy, or hard fact?

Is it the key to unlocking the seemingly impenetrable conundrum of managing the problems created by a growing population, while also stimulating the economy to pay the island's rising bills. House prices may fall...but they are currently out-of-reach for most of the island's young people. Express commentator, and former Chamber President and States advisor, Kevin Keen, believes now is the time for some radical thinking - and that means reaching out to France.

"I count myself as one of the lucky generation in Jersey. I left school in 1974 aged 16 with no qualifications to speak of, but still got a great job in a local accounting firm.

In 1983 my wife and I bought our first home, a two bedroom flat for £42,500. Our joint income was about £13,000 per year and our States loan of £39,500 charged interest at a rate at 3.75%, when base rates were around 10%. 

Five years later we sold that property for virtually double what we had paid for it, and bought the four bedroom house we live in today for £133,500. By that time my wife had given up work to bring up our first child, but my annual salary had grown to  £25,000, so the mortgage was less than three times our annual income. There was no GST, and my effective income tax rate in 1988 was just 7.5%. 

Contrast my lucky situation with that of young people today: average earnings  (median) were recently published at £30,680, and the mean average for people in financial services was £53,040. Also recently published was the cost of housing: now a two bedroom flat costs on average £412,000 (more less 10 times what we paid in 1983) and a four bedroom house £883,000 (almost 7 times what we paid in 1988).


Pictured: Kevin Keen believes it's time for radical thinking, such as considering the benefits of a French bridge. 

Quite clearly incomes have not grown anywhere near as fast as housing costs, which is where so many of our community’s problems arise. As well as a high cost of living, a degree is now essential for many jobs, so young people start work later and they probably face the prospect of higher taxes to support retiring baby boomers who want to retire at 65 (or earlier) and are living much longer.

It's a statement of the blindingly obvious, I appreciate that: but the cost of living really is a major problem for Jersey.

Clearly we need to use the land we have available to its best advantage, building up higher, getting all redundant land working and ensuring the planners encourage cheaper forms of construction; but I doubt this will be enough, we need to think much more radically.

Property prices are always expensive in financial centres. We know about Jersey, but it is the same in London, Monaco, Geneva and Hong Kong. At least in those cases, workers have the option of living outside of the centre and commuting in.

Could we do the same by building a bridge to France?  Normandy is not very far away and property prices are somewhat lower. In addition, islanders living in France and working in Jersey, could also access cheaper food prices, and concerns about our growing population would also reduce.

Of course building such a bridge would be expensive but there would almost certainly be a queue of infrastructure funds ready to finance it, and benefit from the tolls.

Yes I know it sounds mad, not least because the value of existing Jersey homes would probably reduce, and of course there would be all sorts of complications, including building such a bridge - but we have to do something."

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Posted by john garner on
What excellent opportunity to for Mr Keen to invest some of his capital gains should he decide to downsize his house in the future .
Posted by Terence Roger Tanner on
I think it would be an asset to our Island I have one concern how would you stop illegal immigration from Europe? If we can solve that issue I would support the project
Posted by Kitty Heald on
Fantastic idea. Love it. Would need security offers on the French side. Fantastic could do nice day trips, good for motor homes and people that have a home in France much easer access to France. Brilliant Brilliant.
Posted by nigel pearce on
To make it really pay, we should become an oversees dept. of France upon it's completion.
Posted by Trevor Carre on
The prices of property in France near the bridge would soon escalate when property developers in Jersey start buying up properties to sell to Jersey residents and the locals in France would soon not be able to afford to live in that area and there would no doubt be the subsequent hatred towards the foreign invaders pushing up prices in that area of France.
Posted by Jon Scott on
Lol! It would solve the camping problem at Le Port in a flash too
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