Thursday, 18 June 2015

Some Political Notes

Justice and Planning Policy

"Deputy Steve Luce is to ask the Court of Appeal to overturn a Royal Court judgment concerning an application for 17 new homes on a site beside Keppel Tower on Grouville Coast Road. The application was the subject of two successful legal challenges by a neighbour – the owner of Seymour Cottage."

Steve Luce, the Planning Minister, has decided to appeal against the Court’s decision to overturn planning permission at a site along the St Clement’s Coast Road. This is the second time the developers have brought plans, and the second time the court has rejected the plans – revised, but not significantly.

It is a one-man band appealing these decisions – the grandson of a lady who owns a cottage next to the development, while the developers have been able to call on lawyers of their own.

But now the Planning Minister has stepped in, with a statement that he thinks the Court is overreaching itself in its decisions against what is in the Island Plan. He insists that he is not taking the part of the developers, but of course, he clearly is. Methinks the Minister doth protest too much!

“The Minister is keen to emphasise that he is not aligning himself with the developer, but wants complete clarity on Island Plan policy. He is concerned that the decision by the Royal Court gives more weight to heritage issues than the Island Plan intended.”

The Planning Minister, having made decisions, should stay neutral. If decisions on planning go to the Courts, that is a decision between the two parties involved. It is certainly not an equality of arms for the Planning Minister to enter the fray, backed by lawyers, and the effectively bottomless pit of tax payers money.

I’ve seen in the past a lot of “development by attrition”, whereby permission is rejected by Courts, plans amended slightly to be returned, another time spent in the Courts, and so on. It usually involves individuals with relatively limited means against developers with lawyers and greater funding. If despite that, the Court has rejected plans twice, the Minister should stay out of that, as the Court is interpreting facets of the Island plan in coming to its decision. He should not tell the judges how to judge.

What it looks like is that the comments about "clarity" on the Island Plan are a wafer-thin excuse for yet another attempt for Ministers to interfere with the Courts after he has been annoyed by his decisions. 

"Clarity" and "clarify" seem to be the buzz words within the Council of Ministers these days. Presumably what "clarity" on the Island Plan means is that when the Minister makes decisions, it is clear that the Court cannot overturn them!

After all, it does reflect badly if the Minister makes Planning approval decisions, and the Court rejects them. It suggests to me that perhaps it is the Minister who needs to review his understanding of the Island plan and its application, which may be rather too much in favour of development, regardless of its scale and impact.

The old chestnut bout needing housing raised its head again in the BBC report. The lady in question put that in perspective last time: yes, the Island badly needs social housing, but this development is not social housing, it is luxury flats!

Deputy Luce made this statement:

“If the decision stands, one of the key principles of the plan – to protect the countryside by concentrating residential development in built-up areas – is under threat. And it could also affect what we hope to do in St Helier in the coming years”

I defy anyone reading that to guess that the plans were of a large development on a coastal region - and one which would impact the coastal landscape significantly! Some clarity by the Minister.

It is a built up area, but there should be a presumption to preserve the impact on the coastal landscape, and keep a sense of scale. We have already seen what happens when that is disregarded: it’s called Portelet.

A Sensible Bus Strategy

There is nothing quite like standing in the rain getting soaked while you wait for a bus. If anything puts people off using buses, it is surely the weather.

So it is good news to see that Eddie Noel has set aside for the moment his more bullish attempts to beat the motorist with a stick, and is planning to install six new bus shelters at various locations around the Island.

TTS has been installing more shelters each year and more locations are currently being worked on.

Deputy Eddie Noel, Minister for TTS said “I am really pleased we have identified these six new sites for shelters and I will be announcing more sites later in the year. I see them as important improvements for bus users.”

This is an excellent move, and he is building on the sterling work of his predecessors, Kevin Lewis and Mike Jackson. It was Mike who really kicked off the plan for more bus shelters, as before that, under Minister Guy de Faye, that was simply not on the radar.

There is a consultation available at:

Why not email Transport and Technical Services, and tell them to go ahead?

Email:, with subject “Consultation”, and tell them to go ahead! Three cheers for TTS!

Ashes to Ashes

Esplanade Site: One thing which has not been addressed, and is of serious concern to me - what is the likelihood of serious contamination of the site, and is there a real risk to the public when excavated? Who will be providing oversight for the contractors to see that they can identify and deal with contamination? The site, I believe, is on land reclaimed before modern protocols about burying contaminants (fly ash, asbestos) was in place.

Fly ash is a potential health hazard because it often contains high concentrations of heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, copper and zinc as well as small amounts of dioxins.

The maps Save Our Shoreline have show 'graves' of Bellozanne ash across the entire site to different degrees in layers going down to beach level (10 meters +). Back when this land was reclaimed, the residue was just dumped without separation.

A Danish report noted that:

“Despite the serious environmental pollution and the negative impact of air emissions to public health, the dispersion in the environment of solid residues, notably fly ash and bottom ash, may have an even more serious negative impact on the environment and public health. Yet, the risks of dispersion and exposure to fly ash and bottom ash are greatly underestimated."

Laboratories can use X-ray fluorescence spectrometry in the environmental and recycling fields. This emerging technique is used for the composition management of the major components of fly ash, including calcium oxide, silica, and alumina; chlorine concentration management in fly ash; and confirming the absence or presence of lead and other toxic heavy metals when fly ash is recycled for various applications.

It is important that samples of the material taken from the landfill are checked periodically - and at different depths - to make sure that it is not potentially hazardous. An assumption that it is not, given what we know about the site’s history, exposes the public and the contractor’s staff to potential risk. If hazardous material is present, it does not mean the building needs to stop, but it does mean that proper safety protocols are put in place.

After all, if asbestos is found in a building, the builder has to at once cease work until proper safety protocols for its disposal are put in place, and failure to do so has led to fines. Workers’ health is at risk, and this construction work is no different in that respect.

1 comment:

James said...

So it is good news to see that Eddie Noel has set aside for the moment his more bullish attempts to beat the motorist with a stick, and is planning to install six new bus shelters at various locations around the Island.

Not if they do what they did at Midland Stores.

The bus stop there was a short distance south of the Rue du Trot junction, on a narrow pavement. Putting the common design of shelter (hard to describe, easy to draw) in there would have been impossible, and I can only assume the imbeciles at Planning wouldn't give planning permission to mount the curved glazed roof onto the wall of the neighbouring house.

They resited the bus stop right onto the junction.

This is bad (in the UK it would breach the Highway Code) - it blocks that junction. The fact that TTS approve bus timetables that mean we have buses running practically in convoy at certain times of day adds to the problem: two buses nose-to-tail loading commuters across a junction is the kind of elementary fail that you'd expect anyone to try and avoid. But hey, this is TTS, so what else do you expect?