Why are we still building homes where a window box is a luxury?

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I wondered, for a moment, whether it was already 1 April and they were just having a little joke.

I don’t know about you, but my pay doesn’t seem to have gone up by 2p an hour. There’s a recession on and every penny counts. And for all of us with a four-wheeled vehicle, parking is one of those expenses we can’t do without.

Of course if you can afford a new ‘low emission’ vehicle, you can get cheaper parking. Some of us would have to buy a new car, though, and some of us won’t be able to afford to do that. Not this year, not next year.

The fact is that the government makes a tidy sum of charging people to park. That is why they employ parking control officers, to make sure that we pay up – even in out-of-town areas like St Aubin and St Brelade’s Bay.

It could also be the reason for the token gestures to sustainability every now and then – talk of pedestrianisation and the like; a bit of residents’ parking here and there, coupled with plans for a new car park slap bang in the middle of a residential area like Ann Street.

I’m not sure of the whys or wherefores of the States housing they are pulling down behind the Arts Centre, but a car park anywhere is a complete eyesore.

What is also unclear at the present time is the intention of the developers of the old Ann Street Brewery site. Whatever their plan, given that the Millennium Town Park seems unlikely to appear before the year 2100 (hard to believe, but nine years have already passed since the fireworks and champagne), I would have liked to have seen a green space on that site. A small square, of the like you see on many provincial French towns, a children’s play area, a few trees, a couple of benches.

But it seems to be the States planning policy to stack blocks of flats cheek by jowl with blocks of cars – you only have to look at the area around Patriotic Street.

Perhaps they think the residents will enjoy drinking in the petrol fumes of a morning, or gain some pleasure from looking out over a concrete homage to the people carrier.

In truth, I’m not a big fan of the motor car. Apart from the pollution problems which are slowly asphixiating our planet, the number of people killed or injured on the roads probably equals any known form of disease.

The noise for people living anywhere near even a minor artery in Jersey is intrusive and debilitating. Add to that the fact that Jersey has a higher number of cars per head of population than almost anywhere else in the universe and you get a driving experience which is almost guaranteed to monitor 110 on the road-rage scale.

By the same token, we have to ask ourselves why the public transport system is less developed than most other areas of comparable size. Despite the perceived improvement in the bus services, people living outside of the town area – particularly in the east of the Island – are unlikely to be able to get a bus home after 7 pm on weekdays.

Walking and cycling seem to be getting more popular now, but there is still a reluctance to use the legs we are born with when it comes to carrying shopping.

Central Market traders have long complained that people are unwilling to walk more than a few yards with a bag of shopping. How shameful is that?

While such apathy prevails, demand for public transport is unlikely to increase. The market fruit and veg, meat, fish and bread – in my view always superior in quality and freshness and value for money – will continue to battle with the larger supermarkets.

This is another area where we differ from our Continental cousins – how is it that small provincial towns all over Europe have thriving outdoor markets whereas Jersey shoppers are more than content to pay over the odds for a cellophane-wrapped bumper bag of convenience?

Happily, the Island’s farm shops have been staging a come-back. Some, indeed, will deliver a bag of organic healthy produce to your doorstep. And for lazy or busy folk like me, it’s a great way to shop. Of course the ideal would be for all of us to be able to grow a little ourselves. But with more and more apartment blocks next to car parks becoming the norm, even a window box is becoming an unattainable luxury.

At the same time, the Island’s farming community has contracted considerably in the past ten years or so and landowners are having to find alternative uses for their sites.

I’m very much in favour of the scheme that the Royal Jersey Agricultural and Horticultural Society are trying to get off the ground, to form allotments where people without gardens can get a bit of fresh air and daylight and do a little to help themselves.

At the time of writing, the RJAHS is negotiating with Planning as to whether small sheds might be permitted on each plot, with the practical benefit that rainfall could be collected from the roof into a water butt below.

Whether or not Planning approve, the whole concept of small plots tended by people who care about them is nothing new. From Cuba to the Rhine you can find communities of gardeners doing what comes naturally.

In some areas of Europe they are even a tourist attraction, bright with flowers and constructions of all shapes and sizes.

The question is whether the States Members that we elected just a few months ago will have the foresight to plan ahead for a sustainable quality of life – and whether they will have the stomach to see it through.

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