Sunday, 3 April 2011

Excavating Past Plans

According to the JEP, Freddie Cohen, Environment Minister, told States Members that he was powerless to stop a major development at Portelet - the reason was that planning permits had already been granted for the site when he took office. (JEP, 31.03.2010).  He went on to say that he had worked to ensure that the Dandara scheme was much more attractive and less of an eyesore than the original plans.

What the JEP didn't say was who was the Minister at the time who granted the permits. If it had been the Minister before Freddie Cohen, which seems most likely, that would have been Senator Philip Ozouf, responsible for what Senator Cohen calls "an inferior design". But is that the case, or is Senator Cohen trying to deflect attention from his own decisions?

The Bulletin of the Jersey Society in London for March 2008 reported that "Dandara wants to build 52 homes on the former Portelet Holiday Village site - 45 flats and seven houses. Originally Steve Morgan of Bridgemere Developments wished to build 140 units there but Planning insisted that the numbers be reduced. He has now gone into partnership with Dandara and the plans went out for public consultation in December [2007]"

Now Freddie Cohen was elected in 2005, and became Planning Minister that same year, taking over from Philip Ozouf. If the record is correct that Dandara's plans were going for public consultation in December 2007, it seems very unlikely that much had been decided about what could go on the site apart from some development.

It is ironic that in the JEP he is reported as saying that "we have short memories", because that certainly seems to be the case with his decisions. However, in 2008, he was putting the best face on his improvements. According to the JEP, 30 April 2008:

A BOLD and imposing development will be 'wonderful' for Portelet's headland, according to the Environment Minister Freddie Cohen. One of Jersey's most beautiful bays is soon to be dominated by a large-scale scheme of 50 residential properties on the former Portelet Holiday Village site.  Dandara, who got permission to build on the site more than two years ago, employed UK architect Sir Richard MacCormac to design the 45 flats and five houses. Senator Cohen was persuaded by the architect's plans and approved the application last month, despite opposition from heritage campaigners and his own department. He said that the 'bold and imposing' design would be an example of high quality architecture in the Island.

So much for "consultation"! The only matter he got right was that permission was granted "more than two years ago", which may put the original decision in Senator Ozouf's court, although it that just means it predates 2006. But as the Senator would not have taken office until late 2005, it is possible that Senator Ozouf passed the plans, and as Planning Minister, came up with what Senator Cohen is happy to describe as "an eyesore" and "an inferior design". Senator Cohen has, however, agreed to release the original development proposals and the updated plans, so that we can see both whether his department's input "improved the scheme".

We may also be able to see who was the Planning Minister responsible for a sub-standard scheme and giving permission (by Planning permits) in the first place, and if it was, in fact, Senator Ozouf, who has a habit of rewriting his political history as he goes through, managing also to bury other marvels as his extravagant and unilateral splash of thousands of pounds on a bimbo for the Battle of Flowers during his tenure as Economic Development Minister. Perhaps the JEP can dig a little deeper and tell us.



Anonymous said...

Very interesting Tony. It seems to me that this is well worth someone asking a question in the States about! I fear that the JEP won't be bothered to follow up.

voiceforchildren said...


"Perhaps the JEP can dig a little deeper and tell us."

Yeah, like that's ever going to happen!