Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Bulldozing Ahead

Do you remember when a developer sent the bulldozers in and destroyed Janvrin Farm. Despite not having planning approval for the site, residents of nearby houses awoke to see the 14th century farmhouse being raised to the ground.

The developer used a loophole in the planning law, that you needed permission to build, but not permission to demolish. That loophole was supposed to have been plugged. But it appears not to be the case.

The Attorney General in a reply dated 12th April 2000 about Janvrin’s farm advised the Planning 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.”

But that is clearly not the case here, where development has been applied for. And in any case, by 2001 the Planning Law had been changed as follows:

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;”

The sight of bulldozers and demolition equipment at the Waterfront demonstrates how totally unaccountable the States of Jersey Development Company has become.

For a start, there is an application still being considered so you would have thought that they should not be going ahead with any work on the land. But like Janvrin’s Farm, it appears they have scant respect for the planning process. Presumably they expect the Planning Minister to simply rubber stamp the development.

It will not do to argue that the States approved this in 2008. As everyone by now knows, the States approved a mixed use development, with an underground car park, and residential flats and retail outlets as well as office space. These new plans are so wholly different that they cannot be considered the same at all.

They also seem to have scant respect for Scrutiny, which as Mark Boleat, the Chair of the JDC has said, is “an irritation”. The attitude appears to be: we will go ahead anyway, and you can’t stop us.

And despite the requirement from the States to have pre-lets in place, Lee Henry has acknowledged that they do not have these at present, they just want to prepare the site so it is ready as soon as they do! I get the impression they are edging closer and closer to building without sufficient pre-lets in place, and each step of the way will no doubt the justified by the same fatuous excuse.

The trouble is the States of Jersey Development Company is uncontrollable and unaccountable. What is the Planning Minister to do? If they were fined for going ahead without permission, it will be the States fining a States Quango, and any funds paid would mean less return from the pitifully small dividends paid at present.

The principals at the heart of the JDC, Mark Boleat and Lee Henry, cannot really be brought to account either. They cannot be easily dismissed by the States, and the States itself is so conflicted on this matter that it would be unlikely that a vote of no confidence would carry anyway.

As someone commented on Facebook:

“It is all smoke and mirrors. Give the impression that works are going on unopposed and you will stop people complaining. They are simply trying to pave the way for getting away without being scrutinised.”

It is all very well to say we need the offices. Even granted that we do, is that reason enough to ignore planning applications, to disregard scrutiny, and to treat the States and the general public with such contempt?

When the developer tore down Janvrin’s farm, there was a general consensus that even if he was within the strict limits of the law, he was behaving badly. But he was a lone individual. One does not expect to see a States Quango behaving in such a disgraceful manner. But apparently the Council of Ministers thinks this is a good thing and acceptable behaviour.

Here's what Save our Shoreline had to say:


We publish photos taken this morning of the current (and we believe illegal) 'landscaping' taking place at the Esplanade car park which we are monitoring. Reports from the public are currently pouring in to SOSJ.

Unfortunately we missed photographing the dead rabbits before they were hurriedly cleared away. The mature healthy trees were until today feeding and resting places for many species of migratory and resident birds who need these last valuable green spaces on the waterfront.

The planning conditions that were approved with Building 4 have changed. If the temporary car park works (by the underpass) are done under the building 4 consent, then the JDC should be replacing the car park immediately, on the Esplanade, under the phasing plan they submitted with the building 4 application. The JDC are not replacing the car park, under the new phasing with building 5, now, and this will be at least 10 years before it is replaced instead of the one year promised.

To date 325 individual Planning objections have been received by Planning and a decision has not yet been made on this application which is combined with Building no 5.(Application reference P/2014/2192 - Building 5 Esplanade Quarter and temporary relocation of public car parking)

The JDC are displaying a breathtaking arrogance in ignoring the Planning procedure. Even if they do have enough pre-let agreements signed to enable them to start work on Building 4, (which we doubt) they should not be steaming ahead destroying the trees and bushes in the car park and spending thousands on a new temporary car park without the phasing plans even being approved.


James said...

The loophole is obviously still open. Para 2a quoted speaks of the demolition of a building - it says nothing about ground clearance. Which only suggests the lawmakers in 2001 spoke with forked tongues.

cyril said...

There is a provision in the B&P laws that allows the directors of a corporate body to be charged in there own person, bet it won't be used here.