Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Janvrin's Farm - A Retrospective

I went to look at the Jersey Artists Group paintings on display at the Portelet Inn the other day and parked in the car park near to what had been Janvrin's Farm Restaurant. In 2000, this was on the point of becoming a listed building when owner David Sheppard assembled an army of labourers in March 2000 to demolish it on early on a Saturday morning, a time when (it being the weekend) most official channels were away from the office, and difficult to get hold of. Within a very short space of time, the bulldozers had moved in unannounced and razed the 17th-century traditional Jersey granite farmhouse to the ground.

In the States, Deputy Troy asked the following questions about this to the President of Planning, Senator Nigel Quérée:

"1. Would the President give members details of the steps taken to date concerning the possible legal action against the developer responsible for the demolition of Janvrin's Farm, St. Brelade and would he inform members whether the Attorney General advises such action?
2. As the site is in the green zone, would the President advise whether the Committee is under any obligation to allow replacement of the demolished building?"

The President of the Planning and Environment Committee replied as follows -
"1. The matter has been placed in the hands of H.M. Attorney General, and evidence is currently being collected to enable a decision to be made on possible legal action.
The decision as to whether or not to prosecute is for the Attorney General and I am not prepared to comment further.
2. No application to redevelop the Janvrin's Farm site has yet been made. If such an application were made, the decision on that application will be taken having regard to all relevant considerations and policies including the fact that the site falls within the Green Zone."

Later that year in July, the results of the request to the Attorney General were given:

The Department of Planning and Building Services passed a comprehensive account of the events and circumstances known to it to the Attorney General on 24th March 2000 with a request to advise whether, in the particular circumstances, demolition constituted 'development' and whether the action of demolition without consent was contrary to law . The Attorney General in a reply dated 12th April 2000 advised the Committee that 'It appears to be reasonably clear under the current Law that, if the demolition is unconnected with any application or intended application for development, then consent would not be required for that demolition.'

The "legal loophole" which Mr Sheppard argued was that demolition for rebuilding required planning consent, but if he was just demolishing the building, and not submitting plans, that was not "development" under the terms of the planning law. This was tested in the Courts, and in July 2001 he was found guilty and fined £150,000. However, the conviction was subsequently overturned on a split decision by the Court of Appeal

Planning promptly decided to block that particular argument for the future:

The Committee have already included in its published new draft Planning Law a specific change to the definition of 'development' to encompass demolition. Subject to the outcome of this case it will also consider whether to bring any proposition to the States for an amendment to the existing Planning Law as a matter of urgency.

However, the long term intention was to build on the site, and the first application was completed by the summer of 2000, but turned down several times because of the number of houses on the site. Eventually, after advice from Planning, Mr Sheppard managed plans for three three-bedroom houses and one two-bedroom house.

By 2001, the Planning Law had also been changed so that it included:

Meaning of "develop"
(2) Without prejudice to the generality of paragraph (1), "develop", in respect of land, includes -
(a) to demolish or remove the whole or any part of a building on the land;

But what had been lost? Trawling through my back catalogue, I came across the news that, in October 1985, the Channel Island Mensa society held their monthly dinner there, which was duly reported in "Thinks", the local magazine, by one "Yvonne Ronez". This is the account of the meal they had there:

The name Janvrin's Farm conjures up a picture of rustic robustness, and indeed, there were whitewashed walls and old beams, but the rest was old rose velvet and pink cushions, All very dainty, as was our humorous Portuguese head waiter who clucked and fussed around the thirteen of us like broody hen gathering in her clutch for the night.

The bar consisted of two tiny rooms where we sat cheek to cheek trying to decide from an extensive and imaginative menu, We occupied one long table in the pretty little dining room. On one side of our table was a long upholstered banquette with pink back cushions for which the ladies headed en masse, leaving the men to occupy the chairs opposite. At one end of the room there was an old beautifully carved fireplace, at the opposite end a granite one, and down the middle the waiters practised their flambés in a manner that promised to set fire to the low ceiling and which added to the temperature of the already warm room.

On the whole the food was excellent, For starters we had brimming crab cocktails with home made sauce;
large plates covered with thinly sliced Parma ham and slices of melon; Pate, (well, pate is pate, isn't it); Japonaise pancakes filled with prawns and sweet peppers, a white sauce, and served on saffron rice; avocado with prawns; coquille St Jacques; and a disappointingly wet prawn cocktail.

The main course Turbot looked rather skinny and grey, and the squid was well and truly buried in a thick overcoat of batter. But then there was excellent fresh Jersey plaice; trout cooked not only with almonds but also banana; chicken with cheese; King Charles purse, a sort of carpet bagger steak cooked with mussels instead of oysters; strips of chicken breast breaded and deep fried; the ubiquitous scampi provencale with guess what? - rice; and veal covered in crab meat and white wine sauce, No shortage of crab meat in this place unless you wanted crab claws to start when it was discovered there was not a nipper in the joint!

For dessert the fresh strawberries was favourite, some preferred the fresh fruit salad or the black cherries, apart from the usual display of cream covered decorative caky waist expanders.

The coffee we good and we even got another cup but only after we asked for it, it was also a pity that nobody offered us a liqueur.

There was a good range of wines at varying prices, though all a little on the pricey side. As usual the conversation ranged from the ridiculous to quantum physics, and despite the bills being a few pounds more than expected (beware the veg is dear and did not appear to come as an optional extra) we had a most enjoyable evening.

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