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Future of Bouley Bay diving business 'uncertain'

Future of Bouley Bay diving business 'uncertain'

Monday 19 July 2021

Future of Bouley Bay diving business 'uncertain'


Doubt has been cast over the future of the Bouley Bay Dive Centre amid plans to redevelop the Water's Edge Hotel and wider area.

Toyah Tomkins, who has run the Bouley Bay Dive Centre for 11 years, said even though there is a new centre included in the redevelopment plans, there is uncertainty over what the commercial arrangements for that facility would be.

The centre has been running in the island for 70 years, and is one of the oldest dive shops in Europe, bringing in tourists and enthusiasts, as well as offering lessons to schools and the local community, and other water sessions including paddle boarding and trips to the Écréhous.

There are two planning applications for the Water’s Edge Hotel site - one is to build 25 self catered apartments, has been approved and is in perpetuity, meaning it can start at any time. 

The other, which is the preferred option for the site, has yet to be approved, and would involve the construction of a single landscaped home on the site. 

Waters_Edge.jpg

Pictured: There are plans for the Water's Edge Hotel to become a single landscaped home.

Though both plans retain a dive shop and create a new restaurant, Ms Tomkins said that no offers or discussions had yet been presented to the business on a new potential lease for them, leaving the centre with doubts as to their future at the site.

“Our fear is that when they get the plans approved, they’ll then offer us the lease for a new commercial building which would be so expensive that a dive shop wouldn’t be able to afford it, and we’d have to turn it down because we physically wouldn’t be able to run it any more,” she said. 

She expressed her concern it could potentially “turn into something else - a chain, or something that really isn’t community-based like the dive shop is now.”

According to Ms Tomkins, she has been told by the owner that early demolition work could potentially start on 1 October, meaning the business would have to vacate the site and find a temporary home somewhere else for safety reasons.

She said that Trinity Constable and the Chair of Planning Committee, Philip Le Sueur, had been in discussions with them over a potential options, such as purchasing a number of temporary shipping containers for storage at the bay.

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Pictured: Toyah Tomkins has run the Bouley Bay Dive Centre for the past 11 years.

However, she said that the cost of this and permits for it, plus other costs such as installing three phases electricity, would be incredibly difficult for a small business if they were only to be temporary, and with no indication of when or if they were going to be allowed back at their permanent site. 

“We can’t spend thousands on these temporary shipping containers. Planning applications as well are at least 14 weeks’ wait for the planning, and we haven’t even got permission yet,” she said.

She added: “If we’re going to be thrown out of the dive shop, we’d rather them just be honest and tell us so we can relocate somewhere permanently, so we can just get on with the business and keep that community going.”

She said that having had little contact from them previously, she had got in touch with MS Planning, the designers behind the new plans, who had pointed them in the direction of the legal representatives handling the development, and that she was awaiting for a response on the matter.

When Express reached out to MS Planning for comment, Michael Stein confirmed that it was question for the legal representatives handling the development, and said it was not their place to comment.  Express has contacted the legal representatives for comment and is awaiting a reply.

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Pictured: Constable Philip Le Sueur said he had set up a meeting with Ports of Jersey to discuss the Centre's move. 

Ms Tomkins is now reaching out to the Jersey community, asking them to share their comments on "why Bouley bay dive centre should be rehomed and how we should be offered a lease before any further plans are approved and that we should not not be left with such uncertainly."

“We just want some backing so that maybe in an ideal situation, they would offer us the lease beforehand so we could see if we could afford it and decide what to do,” she summarised, saying she had no issues with the development itself, but just wanted certainty for the diving community.

“Even if we had to move location to, say, St. Catherine’s or something like that, it’s not ideal, but at least we’d have somewhere where we could permanently try to rebuild the business.”

Discussing the concerns with Express, Constable Philip Le Sueur said he had been engaging with tenants at Bouley Bay to try to find solutions and temporary homes for them.

He shared his support for the new development, saying that it will "it will smarten up the bay and make it more attractive", but emphasised that “what I don’t want to do is lose the diving centre or the cafe... there’s got to be a tourist destination, otherwise the bay would be dead.”

He said he had recently engaged with Ports of Jersey on the matter and arranged for a meeting this week to discuss the possibility of using shipping containers, as well speaking to Jersey Property Holdings about potentially housing some of the containers at the bay, which JPH own sections of.

He continued: “What we’re trying to do is pre-empt it, so, if it does happen, we’ve got a plan.”

Constable Le Sueur said he didn't imagine the diving business being moved out as early as October, adding that “nothing substantial’s going to happen until the bye-laws application”. He said that, until the planning application for the new home is decided, dates for potential moves were pure “speculation.” 

He said that Ms Tomkins' concerns about costs were "outside of my control", adding: "All I can do is create options - that might be some other discussion to be had - all I want to make sure is I can do what is in my gift."

Those keen to share a comment in support of the dive centre can click HERE.

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Posted by Danny Moisan on
Bouley Bay is perfect for the dive center, it could easily be relocated, if there is the will from the parish and POJ! best of luck, I learnt to dive there in1998 and still pop back for the occasional refresher. top people running a great community business. best of luck
Posted by Biancha Aukland on
I don’t object to house being built needs something done with the hotel but the dive centre certainly should know there future it’s a big part of Bouley bay community and they clarification of what is happening , the dive centre has so much to offer that we can’t loose it
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