A view from the West

Featuring food, fuel and the future in Jersey

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Is there a remedy for premature interjection?
Having removed a large part of the gardener workforce from the payroll, the States has been left with a plant nursery site with no purpose - Warwick Farm. Some have touted it as a possible alternative site for a new hospital, but CM Gorst has been quick to state his preferred option - 200 'affordable' houses.

Of course there is a demand for more housing. The States interim population policy was supposed to hold new growth to 300 per year, we know in reality it was well over a 1,000 per year (1%). Those 200 new homes that CM Gorst wants built at the nursery won't accommodate even one one year's worth of population policy failure. If you think 1% population growth isn't very significant I invite you to ponder what Jersey's population would be starting at 100,000 and compounding 1% per year for 1,000 years. (Answer at the end if I remember).

I have a very strong objection to the Chief Minister's statement arising from the fact that the deadline for expressions of interest in the lease of the site does not close until mid June. In making his public statement he cannot possibly have knowledge of other proposals for uses of the site. If someone were contemplating bidding to take on the lease they may well feel significantly disadvantaged by the CM's statement. It might end up as a self fufilling ambition in that other putative users abandon plans given the indications it is a done deal for housing. In the worst case if alternative plans are forthcoming , but rejected, it might be argued the Chief Minister prejudiced fair treatement. Queue the lawyers.....

At this point I imagine most are thinking that the site isn't viable as a farm or nursery - after all other greenhouses sites have been derelict for years. The option for a hospital would have to come from the States, and need planning change like the housing option. There isnt really any prospect of an alternative plan to take up the lease consistent with the current planning restrictions of horticultural/agricultural use. I disagree.

Yes, it isn't likely to be useful (or desirable) for dairy or potato growing - not much use for those glasshouses. But 15.5 vergees , almost 7 acres plus about a vergee of glass houses and some polytunnels is a very sensible size for a market garden. It has another feature in its favour for that - proximity to town and the main market for really fresh produce. In their report Small is Successful, the The Ecological Land Co-operative give details of 10 sustaianble viable organic ventures run in 10 acres or less. Probabaly the most comparable of their case studies is Spring Grove market garden. That is site of 6.5 acres, including some polytunnels. It is a mixture of field scale vegetables and hand managed beds. In 2007 it had a turnover of £70,000. However I doubt such a direct commercial proposal would get very far - the rents that could be paid to the States are insipid compared the very large sums involved in converting the site to housing. However there is a different tack I would be incined to take.

Let me start at the other end of the telescope. What would the States do with the rent money from the site, or indeed the cash raised from disposing of the land for housing? Truth we dont know - it could go to front line staff in schools or mental health, but equally possible it goes to pensions for senior civil servants, or making up the losses of the innovation fund or sending a few ministers on 'fact finding' trips to the Carribean. So how about short circuiting the black box of States money and set up something of social and community benefit from the outset?

It has been done before locally, though not quite in the model I'd propose, and there is some history of Warwick Farm being used for community activity. Until the person running it retired a couple of years ago we had a certified organic farm on the island that was run with Social Services to provide opportunities for people who would find it very difficult to find positions in the commerical world. Similarly I know from recent personal conversations there is a need by the probation service for placements and openings for rehabilitation. Not too many possibilities in the finance sector for people from that background. Certainly in the past Warwick Farm was used for training sessions for the honorary police across the Island. The private roadways and space are invaluable for traffic scenarios practice.

Somewhat presciently the Jersey Organic Association a few weeks ago had a speaker from Community Supported Agriculture at their AGM. Ben's talk made it quite clear there are models for farmingand especially horticulture that work with community involvement. They vary from crop share/ownership of a commercial venture to full on community management of a not for profit facility. I am incined to think the last might be the right way to run Warwick Farm and CSA expertise could be tapped into to set up the management.

Obviously if it were to be a community run cooperative undertaking, it would be upto the community and management to determine what to do with the land and facilities. There will be costs of course and it will be necessary to have some mind to commercial activity to cover those. The latest Rural Economy Strategy aims to double the amount of certified organic land in the Island and I would argue for that. It is a useful selling point politically as it implements established policy. I'd look first to using the glasshouse or polytunnels for special crops and soft fruit of which suprisingly little is grown locally and there is definitely demand. The fields might be used commercially, but I'd be inclined to argue for a good portion of allotments in the mix - there's storage and parking available on site -the usual obstacles from planning in respect of allotments. Last time I checked there was quite a waiting list for the existing allotment.

Some of the other facilities might have to be repurposed. The staff canteen area isn't going to be of great use on a site run by volunteers and part timers, but could be part of a bigger picture of food and cooking. Perhaps something could be done alongside caring cooks to promote produce storage and preserving as well as cooking skills and knowledge of use of fresh ingredients? The house on site is again unlikley to be of interest as a dwelling , though it could certainly be used for that. But how about a demonstration site for eco improvements such as insulation , heat pumps and solar panels?

Personaly I would also like to see some horticultural and ecological education work going on there too. Compost making, fruit tree grafting, permaculture, polyculture, no dig gardening..

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About the same as China


You forgot the answer. 100,000 * 1.01 exp 1000 is 2 billion. A bit more than the current population of China. Einstein said compound growth was the 8th wonder of the world.

Well, 100 years at 1% would get us up to about 270,000

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