Council Economic Strategy Consultant Trims New Homes Plan Following Feedback

ash futures consultation april 2014The islands’ public has had a first chance to comment on an economic strategy blueprint for Scilly.

The Council has hired consultants to look at economic data and previously commissioned papers, like the Blue Sail tourism report, so they can pick out what they still feel are important goals.

The aim is to merge all previous reports into one master to-do list. The Council will then choose to adopt, amend or reject parts of the final report in May.

Diana Mompoloki from the Council says locals shouldn’t expect the Town Hall to do everything.

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She says one of the things that has come out clearly from the work is “a feeling of complacency, that it’s someone else’s problem to deal with.”

Diana says it’s about defining what the Council can do and other bodies then need to chip in.

The Duchy, Tresco Estate and Steamship Company have also had input into prioritising the list, which was then fine-tuned by consultants Ash Futures, based on their thoughts and opinion.

They’ve produced an overall list of business, infrastructure and community strengths and weaknesses.

Strengths include our heritage, tranquillity, wildlife and natural environment, as well as our loyal visitors.

But poor and unaffordable housing choices, our high cost of living, travel and freight costs and seasonal employment are weaknesses.

The dominance of tourism within our economy is a negative, too, along with variable quality within the sector and a lack of signage.

Future threats to Scilly have been identified as reduced visitor numbers and less government money being granted, along with the risk of storms and climate change.

While the potential for EU grant funding and the proposed high speed internet are seen as opportunities, as well as the chance to increase self sufficiency and to improve transport.

Some stakeholders had insisted that achieving “affordable” transport should be adopted as a key goal. It hasn’t been, but Consultant Simon Hooton says that wish is broadly reflected.

He said it might be possible to “shave a few pounds off the price” but not halve it. He believes people should keep trying for a subsidy, but not build their plan around that.

There are more detailed lists of suggested improvement projects within each sector.

Tackling traffic in the town, facilitating renewable energy projects, waste disposal, food production and flood defences have all been highlighted.

Sunday and year-round business opening, upmarket accommodation and a study centre with student accommodation are also recommended to improve the visitor economy.

The consultants feel that businesses should offer card payment facilities and Diana Mompoloki says the action plan also asks for accommodation providers to adopt online booking.

She said if people don’t want something that makes their businesses run better, then “maybe they shouldn’t be in business any more.”

Around thirty locals attended the open day yesterday. Some left feedback on post-it notes and cited the need for protection from flooding as a high priority.

Housing was another hot topic. The consultants are suggesting that the Council and other large employers should develop their own key worker housing.

New homes, they say, are needed to encourage new business operators to relocate here and diversify our economy away from tourism, perhaps using the faster internet connection when it comes.

On Wednesday, Ash Consultants were recommending in stakeholder meetings that up to 120 new homes should be built in Scilly.

Simon Hooton says he still thinks that’s the right number, but for yesterday’s public session, the number was cut to between 60 and 90 homes.

Simon says that was due to feedback. He couldn’t expand on the formula used to arrive at that number, but said there would be an explanation in the finished report.

But some attendees, like Veronica Maple, were not in favour of more houses.

Veronica said visitors come here for green fields and open views, not “house after house.”

“Why spoil it?” she asked.

It’s not clear who will bring the strands of this to-do list together, if the Council backs it.

Simon says there could be grant funding available to create project management and delivery jobs on the islands.

A number of businesses feel the survey that has helped shape this report has not been well publicised.

Simon says 397 businesses in Scilly were informed of the survey in an Islands’ Partnership update email, and most of them have chosen not to respond.

67 businesses gave their views, and Simon feels that gave a good overview, although he says if enough people get in touch to complain, he’d consider extending the survey.

Simon says change has to happen in Scilly and he’s optimistic that the new leadership on the islands that will help drive it forward.

15 Responses to Council Economic Strategy Consultant Trims New Homes Plan Following Feedback

  1. Ray Wornes April 16, 2014 at 10:51 am

    “Yet another islander” who can’t put their name to their unfair criticisms of other people’s ideas which they don’t understand because they are so complex and difficult to get across in this limited space. Perhaps we should all have to declare or register our own name above our comments to be allowed to contribute to this website.

  2. Sophie Hughes April 15, 2014 at 11:13 pm

    Neck out here with a possibly an unwelcome comment-

    I have to say I don’t share the views regarding the provision of new homes on Scilly.

    I appreciate the need to ensure there is the infrastructure to support new properties, and their owners but critically I think the provision of new affordable housing options could help a generation of islanders who genuinely want to stay put down proper lasting roots.

    In the 12 years I have been on the islands housing has always been contentious. There is frequently debate about who has been ‘given’ a council house and the process of tendering for Duchy rentals, for those who are reliant and at the bequest of these two landlords it can be embarrassing and quite often stressful, especially when circumstances change which aren’t within your control.

    In that time so few of my peers have been able realise their aspiration of buying or building a home. Trust me its hard bordering on impossible to save a 10% deposit – let alone 20% when a family home starts at well over £200k.

    If these new proposed properties provide more affordable housing options, such as self building, or building off plan/ shared ownership or equity loans, I don’t think you will suddenly find an influx of folk moving here (because Scilly isn’t for everyone) instead you may actually see people come out of the woodwork who genuinely love Scilly, who want to settle, who want to raise their families and who not only are financially invested but also socially invested into the community.

    These characteristics I would like to think old and new Scillonians would approve of.

    • Steve Sims April 15, 2014 at 11:55 pm

      A good call Sophie (real name and all). A wonderful riposte to the often nihilist and savage posts that appear like boils on this site.

  3. yet another islander April 15, 2014 at 9:29 pm

    Can’t say I’d want a 100 houses but get real Ray, Normandy properties look quite nice and have provided much needed homes for local families as did the developments at Old Town back in the 1970’s. McFarland’s Downs, the most significant group of properties previously constructed are hardly tucked into an unobtrusive area on the island. There are a few of us who’ve been here long enough to remember when that area was a green field site.
    As for the precinct idea, how will vehicles get to and fro to the quay? Please don’t suggest Jerusalem Terrace, it just isn’t wide enough and wouldn’t be safe.

  4. Ray Wornes April 15, 2014 at 11:48 am

    I would ask Councillors to reject these dreadful plans from ASH Consultants for massive housing and business development that is out of place and makes no economic sense. Just start over again with a major public consultation based on moderation and ask our Council Officers to earn their very large salaries by constructing the public’s much more modest plan. The responses on Scilly Today are so damning that they demand a total rethink. This requires a new set of guidelines. Were these plans originally drawn up before the last Local election by a Council that most people considered irresponsible and destructive of the tourism business and the natural environment? Take a good look at similar past developments at Old Town and Normandy Farm which are situated right on the tourist route and could have been located in unobtrusive areas. More in your face over-development of our green countryside will further damage eco-tourism and the happiness of local residents. Councillors should be able to appreciate just how destructive these kinds of developments are to the Scilly eco brand. ASH appears to know little about the economics of Scilly business which many of us have experienced for decades. Without new criteria these plans will utterly fail the younger generation. The contradictions in these proposals for creating new competing business can only damage already struggling businesses. Over 200 more large cars on our narrow roads won’t work. Massive earth moving vehicles passing horses and pedestrians along our roads. Whatever happened to intelligent, common sense planning? To tell the truth John I haven’t seen much in 30 years. I’d like to start with the reorganisation of all of the basic services starting with a pedestrian precinct in Hugh Town etc.

  5. John Hicks April 12, 2014 at 7:30 pm

    Can the Island really cope with another potential 100 motor vehicles (or even more if they have two per family) that all these new residents would surely want.

  6. nimis non est satis April 12, 2014 at 1:44 pm

    Study centre – Great idea attract university people to the islands may not make a lot of money but should attract people in the future – But what business is likely to relocate to the islands – Most business are not single sites and any service industry – advertising or pr would require frequent trips to the mainland – and then the long haul through cornwall. Sheer lunacy

  7. fran grottick April 12, 2014 at 9:43 am

    This draft report should trigger a wide-ranging community debate about the way forward.
    Please let your Councillors have your views
    As regards housing, my personal view is that any planned must include the provision of reasonable cost rental housing for our local young people . There is already agreement on supporting the provision of “Lifetime Homes” at Carn Thomas, which will include suitable Elder Care Housing, to enable Islanders to remain as independent as possible .Any other increase would have to have strong supporting reasons and go through all the usual planning process, with opportunity for comment by the Public
    As Transport issues are so pivotal, I hope there will be a good attendance on 16th April.

  8. Peter April 11, 2014 at 11:38 pm

    I have moaned on here many times before about Scilly Council’s obsession with wasting taxpayers’ money on hiring consultant after consultant after consultant, but this takes the biscuit: they have now hired consultants to advise on reports from other consultants! Ironically, the one good consultants’ report – the Blue Sail report of about three years ago which seems to have been ignored ever since – is to be brought back by the latest set of consultants from having been kicked into the long grass. There was, in my opinion, a very important news item on here around three weeks ago about the suggestion from Councillor Steve Sims that Scilly councillors should be given training in how to perform their roles. This news item attracted only two comments, and yet it seemed to strike at the heart of so many issues covered on this website: why Scilly council appears to be so inept on so many occasions. And it links with this item: maybe Scilly Council engages so many consultants because they NEED to, because most of them haven’t got the skills or knowledge to gather information, interpret it and make recommendations and policies based upon the information obtained.
    One more point: I can’t believe I’m quoting (or misquoting) Tony Blair, but when he first began his tyranny, he said “education, education, education”. The message for Scilly is “transport, transport, transport”. There is nothing more crucial.

  9. al April 11, 2014 at 7:16 pm

    As if transport problems in Scilly are not already an issue! Quote, “strengths include our heritage, tranquillity, wildlife and natural environment”. Quite unbelievable then that anyone could conclude what you need is to build 60? 90 ? 120? new homes (they can’t even fix a number!). Do they not understand that this will generate more traffic and require a massive investment in infrastructure, sewerage, water, waste disposal etc not to mention more teachers and health workers. And just how will a 24/7 business culture help with tranquillity? No wonder this ‘consultant’ is coy about revealing the ‘formula’ for this lunacy. He should get the next plane home and return the fee to the council taxpayers (exactly how much was it?) who have paid for this nonsense.

  10. John Hicks April 11, 2014 at 1:58 pm

    I can’t believe that all of a sudden 120 houses are needed, who is going to live in them. All those years on the council putting in place rules and regulations to maintain a peacful and pleasant place to live and holiday in and to preserve the water supplies that always used to be in a dire state and it seems that that is all being thrown out of the window just to make someone a huge profit.

    With a vastly decreased hoiday trade and people leaving the lslands to buy properties on the mainland, I really don’t understand where all these people are going to come from to occupy them except outsiders, and what are they all going to do, and who can afford them, earning a vast profit for someone but not the Islands. I would say that the thin end of the wedge is being bypassed and someone is going straight to the thick end. I know I don’t live there any more but I still have a large part of my heart in the Islands as a great many old scillonians still do and will not enjoy seeing them ruined which is what will happen if a great many houses are going to be built. I can only assume that you have no more water shortage problems like we used to have, that was always the number one factor to consider when sitting on the planning committee.

    Please don’t wreck the islands, all you who have moved over there over the last 30 years went there because of the beauty and tranquility, why change it now. Don’t let the newer comers wreck the Islands. Scillonians, now is the time to stand up and say NO.

    • Ian T. April 13, 2014 at 9:05 am

      John, whilst I would not want to upset an old friend like you, there aren’t too many real ‘Scillonians’ left now. Incomers, like me, who first visited the islands nearly 50 years ago, moved there in 1991 but left in 2002 partly because of the transport difficulties, have, on the whole tried to preserve the heritage but also tried to bring the islands into the 21st century. You will remember that we were open year round and seven days a week during the boating season and… took credit/debit cards.We also supported local artists and suppliers as much as possible. There is a desperate need for improvements to the infrastructure especially the waste and drainage provision but when done could support some development in areas like Porthloo and Porthmellon both of which I advocated when living on St Mary’s.

      • John Hicks April 15, 2014 at 10:49 pm

        Hi Ian,

        Not so much of the ‘Old’ hehe!

        Of course you are absollutely right, I firmly believe that to stand still will ultimately mean you actually go backwards and will be left behind, But seriously 60 – 90 houses is just sheer lunacy in my view, sewerage etc would need to be upgraded and that is probably a good thing but the lack of potable water is certainly a problem and would only be exacerbated with more permanent people lliving there, if indeed they did, I could see several of the houses quickly ending up as second/holiday homes, but many would be lived in and the end result would be that there would be even more cars on the Island to cope with. Mind you one good thing about it is that I would imagine with so many people trying to leave the Islands as so many are at the moment the price of property is going to tumble somewhat.

  11. Paul Whittaker April 11, 2014 at 12:39 pm

    Just some quick questions.
    Where is the need for 60-90 new homes? Where are they going to built all of these homes without spoiling the look of the islands? Where is the drinking water going to come from for the extra 200-300 people? Is this not going to create even more traffic?

  12. Jonny Exile April 11, 2014 at 12:35 pm

    And there you have it folks from someone who prefers the security of a (very large) taxpayer funded salary plus pension contributions rather than the opportunity and risk of owning a business herself (and never has as far as I know) …… do as I say or you “shouldn’t be in business any more”.