The Chief Minister was warned about “aggressive action” against Foreshore property owners more than a year before the issue was publicly raised, but failed to act, Express has learned.
The Law Society’s Property and Conveyancing Sub-Committee wrote to Senator Gorst in July 2016, demanding answers on the controversial foreshore issue. But while receipt of the letter was acknowledged, the Chief Minister did not respond or appear to take the matter any further.
The policy to ‘tax’ coastal property owners if their property encroaches on the sea wall or the ancient and vaguely-defined Foreshore hit headlines in July last year when Express revealed that one islander had been forced to fork out more than £30,000 in ‘compensation’ to the States when he tried to sell his former home.
Pictured: One islander spent more than £30,000 on Foreshore 'tax' on this property.
Despite not being responsible for the encroachments – the property was built as such by previous owners decades earlier, with full planning permissions – he was still made to pay.
In the following 18 months, the States collected more than £70k in revenue from similarly positioned coastal properties up for sale or development – despite not having published an officially sanctioned policy. This didn’t come about until December 2017.
Since then, islanders and politicians have expressed their strong discontent with the policy, calling for it to end, with Infrastructure Minister Deputy Eddie Noel, whose department enforce the policy, left to answer questions.
It has now emerged, however, that the Chief Minister was called upon by senior lawyers to stop the issue from getting any further in July 2016 – as much as a year before the topic entered the public arena.
Members of the Law Society’s Property and Conveyancing Sub-Committee penned a letter to Senator Gorst demanding a meeting about the controversial subject.
In their letter, which has been viewed by Express, they complain that the principle of approaching property owners in such a way is unfair, and expressing concerns over the decision only to "target" those selling or developing their land. They said that, while making a brand new developer intending to profit from the sea wall pay up, they saw little reason to target individuals and their family homes.
A response to the letter was sent, confirming receipt and claiming that advice would be sought before a full response being given. A full reply was never received.
Express asked Senator Gorst if any actions were taken, including discussing the letter's contents with the Infrastructure Minister, following the letter. Answers on this were never provided. A spokesperson for the Chief Minister's office simply responded: “We acknowledged receipt of the correspondence in question, and a policy regarding this issue has subsequently been published.”
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