On behalf of the Vale Commons Council, I would like to welcome all Habitants of the Clos du Valle and all other Islanders to the first dedicated website of the Commons Council.
In this introduction, I have given a broad overview, an Executive Summary which allows the reader to understand what the site contains. Inevitably, there is some overlap between my Introduction and the rest of the website, and some repetition also occurs within the content of the website, mostly because this is the first edition of the site.
THE COMMONS: PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE
In this section, you will find a briefing paper which was prepared by the Council and its Working Party. It provides a general overview of the Commons from the perspective of the Council. A further paper, which was prepared by the Environment Department in 2011, has also been included. As you will see, both papers say very much the same thing.
For years, the Commons have been seriously underfunded. The grant resolved by the States towards the general upkeep of the Commons was set at £30,000 in 2001. Provision for inflation was made, but has not been added, with the result that what would now be an annual grant of up to £45,000 has remained fixed at £30,000, with no appetite to increase it.
The policy of the Environment Department, which pays the annual grant, is that the Commons should be funded on a “User Pays” basis. Whilst the Council understands the constraints on the public purse, it will always be the case that, whilst various sporting and other organisations can and are being asked to contribute in this way, a great deal of the use and wear and tear on the Commons comes from everyday activities by individual Islanders, whose use of the Commons increases year on year. It seems to the Council that this usage was the purpose of the present grant and that, whilst various user groups can be expected to pay for their own usage of the Commons, it is not reasonable for them to subsidise the individual users, hence the Council’s assertion that, in the present circumstances, a grant from Government will remain appropriate.
In this section, we have produced the report of Environment Guernsey Limited, a company which operates under the umbrella of La Société Guernesiaise, and performs specialist works for and provides advice to Government, the National Trust of Guernsey, La Société and other persons. Whilst Environment Guernsey is not the only advisor in this field, their Notes for Future Management of the Commons has provided the Council with an excellent benchmark of what is required as a result of years of under-investment in the Commons, and the increasing requirement for enhanced environmental management.
A snapshot of some of the Council’s responsibilities has been included by adding a schedule of the car parks, footpaths and tracks under its management.
THE FUTURE PLAYING OF GOLF ON THE COMMONS
As many Islanders will know, the Council has been in discussion with the two golf clubs who presently use one half of the Commons for the playing of golf. The agreements which permit this, and have done so for seventy years at a peppercorn rent, end in 2016. The Council hopes that the golf course will continue beyond that time, albeit that the playing of golf will be expected to generate one half of the costs of the future management of the Commons for the future benefit of all Islanders.
Negotiations with the Clubs have not been fruitful to date, and time is running out, so much so that, if golf is to continue to be played, new Managers may need to be appointed if agreement cannot be reached with the Clubs.
Although there has been much said on this topic, and not a little misinformation disseminated, the proposals put by the Council to the two golf clubs are set out in this section of the website, together with my letter to the Clubs of 25 March 2015. The letter has been included because the Council believed that the 1,500 or so members of the two clubs had not been shown the detail of the Council’s proposals, and my letter requests that those members be acquainted with its terms. This website now provides an opportunity for all Habitants, interested golfers in Guernsey, whether members of either club or not, and the public at large to understand the position of the Council.
THE FUTURE OF THE WEBSITE
From time to time, the Council hopes to be able to update the website, so that the work of the Council and the future of the Commons are better understood across the Island. We have many tasks which await our attention, but resolving the issue for the future playing of golf, hopefully on a basis which is more economical and less restrictive to Island golfers generally, is the most pressing task facing the volunteer members of the Council and its Working Party.