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Minister defends decision to say "no" to Tamba Park

Minister defends decision to say

Friday 27 July 2018

Minister defends decision to say "no" to Tamba Park


Jersey Environment Minister has rejected allegations he had a conflict of interests in his decision to kick out plans to build a 27-unit luxury holiday village and a four-bedroom house at Tamba Park.

Deputy John Young says that the plans were in breach of the Green Zone policy, which he described as the foundation of Jersey's planning policy.

His decision to reject Jonathan Ruff's plans to transform a part of the dinosaur park, which is situated on the border between St. Lawrence and St. Mary, into a holiday village, was revealed yesterday. Mr Ruff wanted to demolish disused glasshouses including a packing station and box-making factory and replace them with 13 two-bedroom and 14 three-bedroom self-catering lodges as well as four ancillary buildings.

Mr Ruff expressed shock at the news of the rejection. He also took issue with the way the decision had been made, arguing that Deputy Young was clearly conflicted when making his decision as he had attended the Planning Inquiry.

 Jonathan_Ruff_-_Tamba_Park_Arcade.jpg

Pictured: Jonathan Ruff, Tamba Park owner, said that the Environment Minister had been conflicted when making his decision.

Deputy Young however rejected the idea of any conflict. He told Express: "I don't have a choice. The law says it is the duty of the Minister to make the decision. The duty is on me and there is no provision within the law for me to delegate that duty.

"I was only a States Member from the elections and it is true that, as an individual member, I have made several comments over the course of the years. But when I was elected as Deputy, and then as Environment Minister, I took on the responsibilities. One of them was to be scrupulously objective when making decisions, which is what I sought to do." 

The Environment Minister said that the reason he took so long to reach his decision is because he wanted to take the time to read the report from the Independent Planning Inspector, Graham Self. "This is a matter I inherited from the previous Minister," he said. "I wanted to read very, very carefully the inspector's report, there are 60 pages of it.

"He made a decision on balance but he does say in his report that he expects the minister to reach his own judgment."

Pictured: Tamba Park is located in the Green Zone. (Google Maps). 

The main reason Deputy Young rejected the planing application is that Tamba Park is located in the Green Zone, where there is a general presumption against development. "I thought that the inspector had not given enough weight about the Green Zone which is the foundation of Jersey's Planning policy. We rejected the application for the St. Peter's housing estate for the exact same reasons and I did not see a case for making an exception for this application.

"It was breaching a fundamental policy, there was no amount of conditions that could have alleviated that. It was proposing to urbanise what is effectively a rural area and it would have had an impact on the character and landscape of the area."

Tamba Park public planning inquiry Jonathan Ruff

Pictured: Independent Planning Inspector Graham Self (centre) hearing development plans for Tamba Park, submitted by Jonathan Ruff's council (left).

In his report, Independent Planning Inspector Graham Self noted there were "flaws and weaknesses" in Mr Ruff's case. He said the proposed lodges would not have the "high quality design" sought by the Island Plan and that the density of the development would be high. "Screening by vegetation could not take away the fact that the development would have an essentially urban character, probably more so than the existing largely unused glasshouses," he wrote. He also described some of the arguments put forward by Mr Ruff's team as "overblown waffle." 

Mr Self however added that the proposed development would be "beneficial in various ways." "There would be a substantial reduction in the area and volume of buildings on both sites, and an increase in the amount of open land, restored into a condition suitable for future open field agricultural use." He also cited the changed pattern of traffic movement, the provision of new bus stops and a new footpath and landscaping as other benefits.

He added that evidence suggested that what would be offered by the development would be different to other tourist offerings. "It seems to me that if an entrepreneur is prepared to take the investment risk associated with developing a tourist-related project which could benefit the island's economy, this should be regarded as a point of support for the proposal."

Concluding he said: "On balance, I judge that the public interest planning gains would be sufficient to overcome the objections to the proposals, including the normal presumption against most forms of urban development in the Green Zone."

Glass Houses Tamba Park Fire

Mr Ruff, who said he will not go down without a fight, has now reached out to all States Members asking them to help overturn the Minister's Decision. He wrote: "It has been frustrating to have spent so much time and effort in an attempt to bring something different to Jersey’s tourism sector knowing that the new minister for planning had the power to go against a highly respected independent planning inspector’s decision...

"I would be grateful if any Members can see a way forward to help overturn Deputy Young’s astonishing decision to ignore a planning inspector’s decision and help inject some much-needed extra bed-space into the Island’s tourism sector, or will it remain a huge eyesore next to a popular island tourist attraction."

Mr Ruff also started a poll to show the support behind his scheme. In a post on the Tamba Park's Facebook page, he wrote: "States members are in power to serve the people of the island so if the holiday village has enough support surely they will listen and do something about it. The planning minister has made a mistake and that's ok as you cannot make the right decision every time but he can stand up accept his mistake and put it right."

So far, over 2,000 people have voted with 92% voting in favour of the holiday village development.

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Posted by Bill Dempsey on
Well done planning minister, with a new government in place i thought it would be the same old same again, but this week with the retention of land at st Catherine's to the national trust, And the planning minister's rejection of a this scheme in st Lawrence. well done keep it going.
Posted by William Boyd on
The development would be an improvement on the disused greenhouses which are presently there. It would also benefit the island economically and enhance the tourism accommodation and facilities. One would think that would be a plus but no, I forgot about the NIMBY mentality in the Trumpton country parishes. They couldn't possibly have any development there. No, they just want to commute into town with their vehicles, polluting and overcrowding it and the 30,000 town residents. Plus la change Rodney, plus la change!
Posted by John Henwood on
Deputy Young was not a minister, nor even a States member when the process of revitalising the tourism industry was fully supported by the Assembly; it is easily perceived that the new Environment Minister doesn't share the view that it is important that tourism should grow.
Whilst I haven't studied the Retreat Farm plan in detail, I am willing to concede that it may be too ambitious, but surely Deputy Young is wrong simply to throw it out. How can a holiday village, duly landscaped, be more of a blot than the ugly, unused glasshouses that presently occupy the site. The area may be designated 'green' on the Island Plan, but it is self-evident that it isn't green and it will never be returned to agriculture in the normally accepted sense of the word.
We need holiday accommodation, we need self-catering accommodation in particular and a properly landscaped, proportionate holiday village development would enhance both the area and the tourism industry. Mr Ruff and Deputy Young should get together and agree a sensible way forward.
Posted by Trevor Carre on
Eh! I think the disused glasshouses, a packing station and a box-making factory really enhance the character and landscape of the existing green zone and would hate to see these beautiful buildings destroyed in the name of improving the area and the Islands economy.
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