|11th June 2021
GUERNSEY PRESS BREAK THE
NEWS THAT SARK IS ON THE UP
An initiative aimed at repopulating Sark was launched in August 2020 by resident Swen Lorenz with the bold challenge: ‘Be one of just 500 people to create a new lifestyle for yourself. Repopulate a ‘secret’ European microstate where properties are standing empty.’ https://www.swen-lorenz.com/sark-society. The initiative attracted considerable local and national media coverage, and support from the Island’s Seigneur, Major Christopher Beaumont, as well.
Extensive reports of Sark have appeared in today’s Guernsey Press and confirms what this publication has been reporting on for some time. With more than 100 residents having settled on the Island in the past 12 months, things just may be looking up.
Today’s Guernsey Press coverage confirmed:
‘A German entrepreneur living in Sark has single-handedly grown the island’s population by more than 100 people over the past year through three global lockdowns.
Financial adviser and fund manager Swen Lorenz first visited in Sark in 2004 after reading a book about the island.
He was curious about its unique system of governance and how it had manged to survive in the modern age.
He liked it so much he moved to the island, but soon realised that the place was struggling and needed a lift.
‘I thought I can use my skills to help Sark get back on its feet,’ he said.
Seeing an opportunity under the EU Settlement Scheme for EU Citizens to take British residency, Mr Lorenz wrote a book called ‘How (and) Why to Move to Sark?’ which he marketed to financial services clients.’
‘It took over my life for a few months and it has reinvigorated Sark.’
‘Sark’s advantageous tax system was also very much of interest to me [when he was first investigating the island] and that’s something I am entirely unapologetic about. Choosing tax-advantageous jurisdictions is not something I’d be ashamed of, and we have the freedom to legally use these options.’
‘I can realistically attract and handle 25 to 30 people this year. The main constraint is the availability of real estate on Sark and my time.’
‘I do believe that Sark would easily have the capacity for another 100-150 people if some of its derelict or under-utilised real estate was put to better use.’
‘There’s an unfinished ruin of an apartment building and one has to ask if one or two hotels should be converted into housing.’
Sark’s development laws are very strict and no one wants to see the place over-populated but there is still plenty of scope for, and need for, more residents. Is the right figure 700 or 1,000? I don’t know. Chief Pleas needs to come up with decisions on questions like that.’
In the Seigneur’s presentation at the Sark Chamber of Commerce forums held in 2017, Christopher Beaumont stated:
“We should aim to be self-sufficient in green energy. Just saying it will get people to visit the Island and it would be fantastic to have the permanent population moved upwards. So, it would be better for all of us if we were between 750 and 800 is my thought. I don’t think that we could sustain more than about 1,000. I don’t think that we have got enough water on the Island, but there is no reason why it shouldn’t get higher. That would be good for all of us.”
In a similar forum held again by Sark’s Chamber in 2019, Beaumont furthered:
“I still want Sark’s permanent population to go up and stabilise, and those were the numbers that I used last time, so, it hasn’t crept up into 4 figures, 650-800.”
In today’s Guernsey Press it also reports:
‘Sark Seigneur Major Christopher Beaumont is a big fan of Swen Lorenz’s relocation initiatives.
‘We now have over 100 people who have moved or are moving here thanks to Swen, his manual and his sound financial advice, and we see more coming in the future’, he said.
Major Beaumont said all the newcomers have a similar outlook on life to Sarkees.
‘The newcomers are not tied to their locations and have the means and motivation to try somewhere new. Digital nomads if you like. They choose Sark and stick, and we are definitely looking for people who plan to stick in Sark.’
Major Beaumont believes Sark’s population could easily go above 800 without issue.
‘Having a larger population would give a massive impetus to the local economy,’ he said.
‘We have cafes and restaurants but they’re not open all the time because there just isn’t the population to support them. We pride ourselves on Sark produce, but unless you know the fisherman you can’t buy fish. We could have a clothes shop, a butcher’s, a fresh produce market and a fishmonger’s if we had enough people living here to keep them in business.’
‘More people stimulate the economy and drive demand for goods and services. I would love to see out disused bakery brought back to life for instance.’
Like Mr Lorenz, Major Beaumont said the biggest, single issue in Sark was accommodation.
‘We have many sub-standard properties but, now we have had the first influx of new residents, we have no excuse for property owners not to invest in upgrading their properties to accommodate all these eager newcomers. Buyers and tenants will make their feelings known about our housing stock. It is overpriced and not up to scratch, but the buyers will make that clear when they don’t buy. Prices will come down or owners will do the work to ensure their property reflects the higher price.’
Major Beaumont does not believe there is any impediment to living in Sark, noting that Mr Lorenz sets out a number of ways keen relocators can gain permission to live on the island in his blog and in his book.
‘With 800 residents there will be no noticeable difference, expect perhaps more of a buzz in the Avenue and the ability to buy a pair of knickers locally’, he said.’
The Guernsey Press furthered with the impact of Lorenz’s initiative on the only physical Estate Agents on the Island:
‘Estate agent can see a property boom.’
‘Sark is on the verge of a mini property boom which could be sustained for at least a decade according to Sark Estate Agents.’
‘Mr Delaney said that legislation, approved last year, which made mortgages available on Sark and allowed landowners to sub-divide their land, was an important factor, along with the work of Swen Lorenz.’
‘There is no shadow of a doubt that Swen Lorenz’s initiative has driven the population increase and a wider global interest in Sark as a place to live.’
‘Our favourable tax situation and people’s desire to live somewhere which is considered safer, particularly post-Covid, are other factors,’ he said.’
‘So far, an increase in property activity in the island had been more for long-term rentals, rather than sales.’
‘I would echo the Seigneur’s views that, unfortunately, our legacy housing was built when there was no real planning or building regulations and that spooks both banks and other lenders as well as potential buyers,’ he said.’
‘The population surge will drive landlords to offer 100-year leases far more readily and compel them to do work on their properties to take advantage of the renewed interest.’
‘Mr Delaney said property prices, land value and rents in Sark had dropped by 30-40% in the last decade, but he now anticipates a mini-boom.’
‘Landlords, lenders, property owners and tenants will drive continued improvements and better housing stock. All of the signs are there for a sustainable mini-boom. Prices will rise, mortgage lenders will feel confident as the market becomes more liquid, and property owners will find it irresistible to invest in their properties.’