Client Weekly Update – Friday 2 December

Action plan to get vacant houses onto the market

Drastic measures’ – including the use of compulsory purchase powers – are being considered as part of a new strategy by the Housing Minister to get vacant properties back on the market. Deputy David Warr yesterday published his Action on Vacant Properties plan, which outlines six main points currently being implemented and several other options under consideration.

New taxes, including an annual charge levied against vacant properties, have also been listed among the potential proposals – but Deputy Warr said the government was “trying to avoid using a sledgehammer to crack a nut”.

The news comes shortly after Deputy Steve Luce lodged an amendment to the Government Plan, calling for the introduction of a Residential Land Withholding Tax that could act as a ‘deterrent’ for non-resident investors to own residential properties in Jersey – thereby freeing up homes for Islanders.

Around 4,000 homes were recorded as empty on the day of the 2021 Census, but Deputy Warr said that based on further research his officers estimated the true number to be about 900.

The figure was reached alongside a proposed definition of a ‘vacant home’, stated in the report as “any accommodation which is no one’s sole or main residence, is not actively undergoing construction or renovation, and remains unoccupied for a minimum period of 12 months”, but Deputy Warr said the government was “trying to avoid using a sledgehammer to crack a nut”.

Of the 900 properties, around 500 were believed to be second or holiday homes, 178 empty staff accommodation, 108 as ‘owner away long-term’ and a further 125 were categorised as empty for ‘other reasons’. The action points include establishing a ‘community-led reporting mechanism’ before the end of January.

This would enable Islanders to report properties they believe have been vacant for a long period of time, or are in a very poor condition. Deputy Warr said this would take the form of a website, allowing people to send pictures of empty homes along with their reports.

Other actions include the creation of an Empty Homes Service that will provide advice to Islanders and monitor the issue to inform government policy.

The report states that, of the future options being researched, ‘empty dwelling management orders’ could be introduced to enable the government to take control of a property for a period of time to bring it back into use .

Compulsory purchase action is also being considered ‘where all other available options have been exhausted’, and public interest in acquiring a property can be ‘proven’.

Deputy Warr admitted that the latter method was a ‘drastic measure’.

“There are also tax options in there but we are trying not to use a sledgehammer to crack a nut. It’s not about big bad government trying to force Islanders to do things, it’s about making the best possible use of our built environment,” he said, adding that there was a ‘moral imperative’ to address the issue. “We have just got to get on with it”.

Jersey’s politicians are to be asked to prevent new super-wealthy immigrants from moving to the island next year

Last month it emerged that the government was reviewing the criteria for allowing so called ‘2(1)Es’ residents to come to the island – now the Leader of Reform Jersey, Deputy Sam Mézec, has officially submitted plans to bar them altogether, while the forthcoming Government Plan Deputy Sam Mézec wants the High Value Residency scheme to be closed to new applicants in 2023.

He said that the review was a sign there was concern over the ‘appropriateness of the terms and operation of the scheme’ and that it should not continue until the issues were resolved.

As of the end of last year, there were 184 people living in Jersey who had been granted 2(1)E status since 2005, while 23 applications were approved during 2021.

From 2018 to 2020, an average of 19 applications were approved each year. Deputy Mézec said that many Islanders questioned the level of supposed economic benefit from such residents to Jersey.

“On top of this, many have ethical concerns over the morality of a scheme which provides extremely wealthy people with a preferential tax and housing status, allowing them to skip the queues other immigrants must join and enabling them to avoid paying tax in their home jurisdictions,” he said in his amendment.

Currently, those offered 2(1)E status pay 20% tax on their first £725,000 of income – totalling £145,000 – and 1% on all income above that amount. Deputy Mézec, who was formerly a member of the Housing and Work Advisory Group, said he had previously raised his own concerns about the scheme.

“Over time I noticed a pattern where several applications came through for people who were associated with a particular business which had relocated to Jersey a few years previously. These people were not entrepreneurs but were just very well-paid employees of that business. They should not have been coming to Jersey as 2(1)Es, but rather as licensed members of staff for that business. This would also have required them to pay their full share of tax,” he said.

“Later in my tenure, we received, on more than one occasion, applications which did not contain complete police checks. Despite not meeting this basic requirement, the officer recommendation for the applications was to approve them anyway,” he said.

Last month, the Chief Minister confirmed that her newly established ‘Population and Skills Group’ – a team of Ministers tasked with ‘a central political forum for matters relating to population policy, the employment market and the skills needs of the island’ – had been specifically tasked with ‘reviewing the criteria’.

Meanwhile, Treasury Minister Deputy Ian Gorst went a step further during a grilling by Scrutiny when he suggested that there could be ‘changes in the Government Plan’ – due to be unveiled this week – allowing for so-called high-value residents’ (HVRs) minimum tax contribution to rise.

Jersey Development Company has said it is working to find a “positive solution” for the newly listed La Frégate café and will announce updated plans soon

When the States-owned company’s updated plans for the Waterfront were published in June 2021, the distinctive wooden building at West Park was absent from maps and illustrations.

An outline planning application to demolish existing buildings, including the cinema, pool and café, and replace them with ‘a phased construction of new development comprising up to 1,001 residential units with basement car park; retail, commercial, leisure, arts and cultural facilities’ was submitted earlier this year.

JDC said that it had carried out a flood risk assessment on the section of coastline around the West Park slip and café area as part of the Waterfront design process.

Following this, the developer concluded that the seawall needs to be raised by 1.2m to ‘future-proof’ the area and avoid potential flooding, with ground levels also increased by 1.2m to maintain views over the seawall.

Meanwhile, the West Park slipway will be moved further to the west. The potential demolition of the 25-year-old café prompted the principal local architect behind the project and heritage groups to lobby the Government to list the 33-metre cedar-clad eatery, which was designed by the late Will Alsop, of Alsop and Störmer.

This week, the Government announced that La Frégate had been awarded Grade 2 listed status, based on its architectural significance, following a recommendation from Jersey Heritage.

In response, JDC said: “Jersey Development Company was notified about Jersey Heritage’s intention to list La Frégate Café earlier this year. JDC has since been working to find a positive solution to protect the building while also enabling the necessary sea defence initiatives and desired public amenities planned for the La Frégate area.”

Previously, JDC Chief Executive Lee Henry said that if the café was listed, it could be moved elsewhere, although Derek Mason, who was the driving force behind the café’s design and construction, said this would not be possible.

“The listing is 50% victory – the other half is making sure it is not moved,” he said.

Meanwhile, campaign group the Twentieth Century Society, which supported the listing said: “C20 was thrilled to learn that our application to list the café has been successful and we look forward to working with the Jersey Government and the developers to secure the future of the café within any new scheme for the waterfront.”

Jersey’s ‘Knitting Banksy’ has struck again with, this time with a woollen World Cup tribute

The newest topper features a knitted mock-up of England’s World Cup squad and an exquisitely detailed Gareth Southgate complete with a fetching beard, waistcoat and a little ‘Team Gareth’ sign.

The Island’s mystery yarn bomber has made headlines for her knitted tributes to the Queen and most recently from her Remembrance Day post-box toppers seen earlier last month.

The latest creation can be found just outside the Co-op on La Route des Quennevais in St. Brelade. Jersey Development Company has said it is working to find a ‘positive solution’ for the newly listed La Frégate café and will announce updated plans soon.

All we know of the mystery knitter is she is native to the parish, having previously told Express: “I only moved to St. Brelade last June and love the parish – it is so friendly and thought postbox toppers would be appreciated by the friendly people of the Parish.”

World cup latest; a rollercoaster night in Group E

It was a frantic and thrilling Thursday night which began with Belgium, the side ranked second in the world, being eliminated by a goalless draw against Croatia in Group F and halfway through the second half of the late games, both Germany and 2010 winners Spain were set for an early exit.

At the break Germany had a comfortable 1-0 lead over Costa Rica, with Spain also winning 1-0 as both European sides seemed to be cruising into the last 16. Then the drama unfolded, Japan levelled against Spain four minutes into the second period. Then, incredibly, 142 seconds later they were in front. Japan and Spain, despite trailing, were heading through.

With just under 40 minutes to go Germany and Costa Rica were going out. “The Japan fans around me can barely believe their eyes,” said BBC Sport’s Chris Bevan. “An incredible turnaround from their team, with the added drama of a long VAR delay.”

“Japan are a completely different animal,” added former England defender Matthew Upson.

Defeat for Spain wasn’t a disaster, unless Costa Rica – then 1-0 down to Germany – took the lead. But Costa Rica equalised in the 58th minute, and after 70 minutes they were ahead. At 2-1 Costa Rica were suddenly set to advance with Japan at Spain’s expense.

However, that lead lasted for only three minutes before Kai  Havertz levelled for Germany. “they desperately needed that,” said BBC Radio 5 Live’s Connor McNamara. “It may not be enough for them but it could save Spain.” “It’s hard to keep up with what is happening at the moment,” added Bevan.

“There were huge roars here from the Japan fans when the big screen flashed up what the group looked like with Costa Rica winning… but then seconds later the Spain fans to my right celebrated wildly after hearing that Germany had equalised.”

Germany hit two further goals to win 4-2. But, as long as Japan held on to all three points against Spain, the champions in 2014 would go out. Spain kept on coming but Japan, dodgy goal or not, survived until full-time, winning 2-1.

They and Spain, despite their defeat, reached the last 16. Germany and Costa Rica were out. Spain boss Enrique said he was not aware his side were on course to head out of the tournament when Costa Rica led Germany. “If I had found out, I would have had a heart attack,” he confessed.

“For the second tournament in a row, Germany go out in the group stages,” added McNamara. “One of the really big guns, one of the four-time winners of the World Cup, they are out of Qatar 2022. It’s one of those nights where it just hasn’t been enough. ”

“Incredible doesn’t do it justice,” said BBC Radio 5 Live chief football reporter Ian Dennis. “The drama fluctuated throughout the course of the second half. We’ve had a game that was the football equivalent of snakes and ladders.”

However, former England goalkeeper Karen Bardsley summed it up best – simply saying: “It was chaos.”

England play the champions of the African cup of nations, Senegal on Sunday evening at 7pm in the knockout stages.

The country awaits.

Mixed markets

European markets are lower today with shares in London off the most. The FTSE 100 is down 0.50% while France’s CAC 40 is off 0.44% and Germany’s DAX is lower by 0.16%.

Yesterday evening, the Dow Jones was up 650 points. It was in negative territory earlier yesterday morning. The NASDAQ composite, which had been hugging the flat line, was up more than 4%, and the S&P 500 was up 2.9%.

Asian markets finished broadly lower today with shares in Japan leading the region. The Nikkei 225 is down 1.59% while China’s Shanghai Composite is off 0.29% and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng is lower by 0.19%.