AFTER decades of neglect, there has been a welcome surge in infrastructure renewal in recent years, including in mundane needs such as main road resurfacing and sewage disposal, vital ones like social housing upgrades, more glamorous ones like a new police headquarters and hospital, and internationally exceptional ones like Islandwide fast broadband.
This multi-faceted programme will be planned into the foreseeable future, continuing to make Jersey fit for the 21st century.
It should be enhanced by continuing infrastructure improvements specifically for the benefit of walkers and cyclists. The new St Peter’s Valley pathway is a great example of what can be achieved with the right political will and can serve as both the inspiration and cornerstone of an expanding network of cycle ways and, importantly for tourism, more inland country paths. The creation of such walks will require creative co-operation between landowners, the farming and tourism industry, the parishes and whichever States minister has responsibility in future for economic development.
For both cultural and economic reasons, renewed emphasis is needed on the maintenance of good transport (as well as political) links with Normandy and Brittany, bearing in mind the unpredictable effects of Brexit on our border arrangements.
NO jurisdiction, no matter how large or small, can function properly in the 21st century without a physical infrastructure that is attuned to the needs of its people, business organisations and public services. In Jersey this comprises roads (including the tunnel under Fort Regent), harbours and airport, sea defences, electrical and telecommunication cables, water and drainage pipes. We could also arguably include off-Island cable connections that supply electricity and support our telecoms network.
Road repairs were allowed to languish in the wake of the recession and a catch-up is now taking place. We will continue this, while also tightening the rules on digging trenches for pipe and cable laying. Not only does this disrupt traffic, it weakens road surfaces and hastens
the time when the whole job has to be redone.
It’s a scandal that in the 21st century many households remain dependant for their water supply on boreholes and wells; and that many remain unconnected to mains drains. This means that homes without both are often drawing drinking water from sources close to septic tanks and soakaways. We will launch a programme to connect all such properties to mains water and drains on affordable terms.
Our Island is small, economically successful and fairly densely populated. Maintaining and enhancing the infrastructure is vital for continued development and to secure our future prosperity. Our road system can’t be expanded, so we need to focus above all on electronic connectivity for homes and businesses, and on air-links in particular to continental Europe.
We will apply pressure to JT and other providers to complete the roll-out of the superfast broadband network as soon as possible.
We regard enhanced sea defences as a high priority given the likely impact of climate change on sea levels and winter weather patterns.
We will support Visit Jersey and Ports of Jersey in their efforts to attract more airline routes to the Island, especially featuring continental Europe. These European links will be vital to help offset the negative impact of Brexit on our EU relationships.
Maintaining and improving airport and harbour infrastructure are the responsibility of Ports of Jersey and we would expect this to continue, noting, however, that heavy capital expenditure by States-owned enterprises adds significant risk to government finances. Similar considerations apply to the heavy investment programmes of JE and JT. It makes far more sense to move these businesses into the private sector.
THIS department has grown from having responsibility for sewerage to overseeing more general public services, including transport and technical matters. Today its range of activities is far too wide. Advance Jersey will amalgamate the Environment and Infrastructure departments, retaining only those parts of the latter that cannot adequately be provided from outside government.
Recycling and resource recovery should become a way of life for everyone in Jersey as it has elsewhere. A whole industry has developed to support the process and government should not be spending public money buying and operating expensive plant machinery when the private sector is more skilled and better placed to provide solutions.
FOR A BETTER LIFE
SINCE the 1700s, Jersey has been reclaiming land from the sea in and around St Helier. Forty years ago La Collette reclamation site was created. Today, it would be sensible for the new government to consider a further reclamation scheme to provide accommodation for the growing population. Whatever details are agreed for a new population policy, it is inevitable that numbers will continue to swell for some time to come. Over and above the Island Plan, which sets building rules for the Island, we should have provisions to regenerate the built-up areas to accommodate a growing population. It would also be sensible to plan for a new St Malo intramuros style extension to the town at La Collette. The site presents poorly as Jersey’s front door and action should be taken to improve the area. There is an opportunity here to provide an attractive coastal entrance to the Island.
Should this not be enough to accommodate the increased numbers of residents, then serious consideration must be given to the creation of a new reclamation site big enough to meet the needs of the future population, whatever its size.
One option could be to create a new site in St Aubin’s Bay, designed specifically for new homes. This would pose some technical challenges but should also be seen as a significant opportunity to use innovative building techniques and to enter into partnership agreements with local investors.
The St Aubin project could also accommodate a non-tidal, deep-water harbour large enough for modern shipping incorporating a tidal barrage for energy production.
A growing population puts pressure on all aspects of infrastructure. Clean water is of particular concern given the physical limits to water storage within the Island. Increasing the capacity of existing reservoirs or building a new reservoir would have a negative impact on the surrounding countryside. However, there are measures that can be taken to reduce the consumption of mains water.
Many people enjoy a daily shower – this can use up to one-quarter of their total water consumption. Building bye-laws should be amended to require new-builds to fit recirculating showers. As water flows out of the shower tray it is filtered and reheated and then recirculated to the shower head, saving water and energy.
The next biggest use of water in the home is to flush toilets. Today, many designs of conventional toilets require far less water per flush. There is also a range of completely water-free alternatives which could revolutionise our idea of a public sewerage system. Islanders should be encouraged to take up these new designs.
Drawing together the themes of creating a fairer society and becoming more environmentally sustainable, the government should encourage local co-operatives to develop renewable energy technologies. Individuals and small co-ops can take on the installation of solar panels on a domestic level with larger community
organisations developing offshore wind turbines. Modern battery technology allows spare energy to be stored on site avoiding the need for moving energy around a grid.
THE story of infrastructure in Jersey is a story of decades of mismanagement and underinvestment that has only recently begun to be put right.
We acknowledge that there have been considerable improvements in recent years. Much delayed major investments – for example in schools and the hospital – have finally been brought forward. Although their execution has been flawed, they are at least underway. Likewise, we support the incorporation of Ports of Jersey.
We also acknowledge the complexities of providing infrastructure in a small island. In normal circumstances, competition is a powerful tool for ensuring that service standards are maintained or improved and that there is downward pressure on prices. But Jersey is too small to sustain competition in the provision of many services.
However, there is still a lot to be done.
One of the main reasons the Island’s infrastructure is creaking at the seams is because of the States’ population growth policy. We have an infrastructure that coped well with a population of around 80,000, but needs major redesigning and investment to cope with more than 100,000 users. By stabilising our population we will reduce the need for costly infrastructure such as new schools.
We believe much greater impetus needs to be given to the redevelopment of Fort Regent. We have outlined plans to increase taxation, and the redevelopment of Fort Regent is one of the priorities for that extra tax income. It is vital that the Fort regains its status as the Island’s premier community sports, leisure, arts and entertainment facility, available to all. It needs to once again be at the heart of Island life.
Renewable energy is a tremendous growth opportunity for the Island, as well as a chance to change the international perception of the Island. Although tidal power has seen several consultations and reports, its development does not seem to be a priority. We want to change this.
The States property portfolio needs to be urgently reviewed. It cannot be right that properties such as Piquet House are left empty or underutilised for years, often deteriorating. We want to engage with the public to discover if there are good community uses for these buildings. Properties for which no worthwhile function can be found should be sold.
Many of Jersey’s roads are not in good condition, and current plans are to repair them using a lower-quality dressing, purely for cost reasons. This is another symptom of Jersey trying to run the public sector with insufficient income. Our honest tax reforms will mean that roads can be properly maintained.
We support recent moves to boost Jersey’s cycling infrastructure. Increasing cycling is a potential win-win for the Island, as is reducing traffic congestion and pollution, improving public health and productivity and cutting the need for costly health treatments.