The Government considers that as a long-standing pressure group Action for Housing is perfectly free to adopt whatever strategy it determines is in keeping with its objectives. However, it is very odd for the group to conduct megaphone diplomacy in public over questions it has not asked of the Government through the proper channels.
The latest release about Road to the Lines is a case in point.
If Action for Housing had telephoned or written to the Government before coming out in public, they would have been told that Road to the Lines was the subject of an Expressions of Interest which closed in October last year. The Government made it abundantly clear at the time that this was a long term project and that it would “take time to conclude”. This is exactly what has happened.
Road to the Lines is far from a standard tender, in the sense that it is not a plot of land or a single building but a large area which consists of many dwellings and alleyways. It does have huge potential but its geography makes it more difficult to come to an agreement with a potential developer.
There were four parties interested in the site. A discussion with the highest bidder led to the conclusion that they would not proceed with the proposed development. Discussions then moved on to the next developer who wanted the time to conduct a more detailed survey, building by building and flat by flat, as a preliminary to taking matters further. This is the process that is underway. There is nothing untoward about this kind of development taking time to materialise. It is important to get things right even if it takes a bit longer.
It is also relevant to point out that the Expressions of Interest was further held up by a general election, a change of Ministerial portfolios and nearly three months of lockdown. In that context, it is remarkable that matters have continued to progress to where they are today.
The Deputy Chief Minister Dr Joseph Garcia explained:
“The Government continues to be firmly committed to a policy of urban regeneration. There are many Government projects that are examples of this like the conversion of the old St Bernard’s Hospital into two schools or the private development at the old Police Barracks which have transformed the area beyond recognition. In addition to this, the Government continues to decant tenants from the Upper Town in order to put buildings out to tender for re-development. There are many successful examples of this all over the Upper Town. The plans for Road to the Lines represent a further ambitious continuation of this policy.
In short, the Government would have been more than happy to have updated Action for Housing had they asked to be updated. Their representative was told at a recent meeting that our doors are always open and this continues to be the case.”