The Environment Minister has said that the island’s stock of derelict glass houses and polytunnels are “less well suited” to being re-developed for affordable housing.
It came as Deputy John Young confirmed that according to the latest available data, from 2018, more than a third of the island's land under glass had been left uncropped.
At the time, 43.5% of land under glass houses and 15% of land under polytunnels had not been cropped over the last 12 months.
Though Deputy Young cautioned that this does not strictly mean they are derelict, he said that it meant "viability" of using the sites for agriculture was likely to go down.
In his response, the Minister used figures from 2018 and published in 2020, showing there was 67,334m2 of uncropped land under glass out of 154,832 m2 of glass houses across the island, and 16,897m2 out of 112,588m2 of uncropped polythene tunnels.
Pictured: Deputy Young pointed to the latest consultation draft Bridging Island Plan, which
The current Island Plan (2011) policy states that where glasshouses are no longer viable to the horticultural industry and a 'disuse and disrepair' condition is given with a planning condition, the landowner will be forced to comply.
However, it would be in "exceptional circumstances" that "redundant and derelict glasshouse sites may be considered for non-agricultural purposes," and that the development would be the minimum to ensure environmental improvement.
When asked why no inactive glasshouse sites were nominated for affordable housing in the new draft Bridging Island Plan, Deputy Young pointed to a planning criteria currently used for defining what sites would be suitable for redevelopment.
Pictured: Criteria currently used to assess the suitability of sites for housing.
He said that it was only the sites that performed well against this criteria that have been taken forward for review.
Deputy Young added that several greenhouses since 2008 have been used for for homes, but that "the remaining stock of older derelict and redundant glass is generally considered to be less well-suited to redevelopment for affordable homes because, of amongst other issues, its relatively remote location and potential to generate significant trip generation, and potentially damaging impact on the character of the countryside."
In 2019, around one in five of the 2,254 islanders consulted by the Government supported the idea of redeveloping glasshouses into something other than agriculture, and 17% thought they should be earmarked for the purpose of housing.
This was in comparison to 39% of respondents who agreed that redundant and or derelict glasshouses should be removed, with the land being restored to open greenfield agricultural use, and housing being built up in town, with taller buildings if needed, and reclaim more land from the sea.
The new draft Bridging Island Plan, currently under consultation, echoes this opposition to development in the countryside, stating "there will be a strong presumption against the re-development of glasshouses for non-agricultural uses," and that this will help to restore the land and improve environmental quality.
It adds that: "Exceptionally, consideration may be given to limited non-agricultural development to enable the delivery of significant environmental benefits in the countryside through the removal of glasshouses and supporting infrastructure; the restoration of the majority of agricultural land; and the repair of the landscape."
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