A storm is brewing in rural St Ouen over a bid by a growing company chaired by a former Chief Minister to knock down a large greenhouse and build houses.
A company chaired by Jersey’s first Chief Minister, Frank Walker, wants to demolish a glasshouse in Grantez, which overlooks St Ouen’s Bay and is close to where the National Trust holds its Sunset Concerts, and replace it with 13 homes.
But many residents are vehemently opposed to the scheme, arguing that it will destroy a quiet corner of Jersey.
Mr Walker is non-executive chairman of Jersey Choice, which also trades as Jersey Plants Direct. The business exports plants and shrubs to the UK. It has used the glasshouse for a number of years but now faces financial ruin after the removal of a tax loophole that allowed goods imported into the UK to avoid VAT.
The company will soon submit plans to build 13 homes – seven four-bedroom homes, three three-bedroom homes and three two-bedroom homes. It says that over a third of the site will be returned to nature.
Mr Walker said: “We want to develop the greenhouse for a simple reason – the loss of low-value consignment relief hit Jersey Choice very severely. It has suffered significant losses and the owner has had to put in a substantial amount of cash into the business to keep it afloat.
“Our only motivation is to keep the company alive and in Jersey. The money will be invested in the company’s main nursery in St Martin. If the company does shut down or the business moves abroad, the greenhouses will decay and become an eyesore.
Mr Walker added: “Not all neighbours are against the plans and opinion is divided. Some parishioners think this development will enhance the area and add value to their own properties. The Economic Development Minister also is supporting this application because he wants Jersey Choice to be a viable business in Jersey.”
But Stephen Le Quesne, who lives close to the greenhouse, is one of many residents who voiced their objections at a recent meeting called by Jersey Choice.
“There is a lot of anger and mistrust and 90 per cent of people at the meeting objected to the plans,” he said. “The development is just too big for the area - this is in the heart of the St Ouen countryside and the infrastructure just cannot cope.”
But above all, Mr Le Quesne said he objected to the reasons behind the plans.
“The whole development is being used to simply prop up Jersey Choice. This development is a convenient way of saving a business when they should be going to a bank and asking for a loan. What is stopping them in five or ten years building on another glasshouse if the business still isn’t making money?
“If Jersey Choice was built on a taking advantage of a UK law, then why should the countryside permanently suffer if that advantage is taken away?
“The developers have already grossly underestimated the amount of traffic that the site will generate so there is little trust among residents. The greenhouse is in good condition so it should be kept in agriculture – the States needs to support farming rather than allow houses to be built on perfectly good land.”
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