The States have collected more than £70,000 from homeowners with property encroaching the foreshore in a little over 12 months in what's being dubbed a “moneymaking scheme” by a Deputy in one of the parishes affected.
Last week, Express broke the news that islander Alan Luce, who owned a home abutting the sea wall in St Clement, was forced to pay nearly £30,000 to the States or face having the sale of his property blocked following months of what he described as “bullying” from the Department of Infrastructure (DfI).
They said that at least 8ft of his property breached the Public-owned foreshore – a vague strip defined as between the “low water mark and high water mark of the full spring tide”, with the sea wall failing to serve as any kind of boundary marker. That land was gifted from the Queen to the Public of Jersey in 2015, after which point the States began “clawing back” money from those in encroaching coastal accommodation.
Mr Luce described the “extremely stressful” ordeal as “tantamount to extortion”, but DfI defended their move, stating: “There is a need to protect the Public’s interest as a landowner.”
Pictured: Alan Luce, who had to pay the States £30k to sell his coastal property, Roche de la Mer in St Clement. He now says he's worried for other coastal homeowners.
Since then, Express has learned of two more properties that suffered the same fate, bringing the total amount paid to the government to £86,807 including legal costs in just one year.
Brise de la Mer Apartments Association paid £19,500 to the States to rid themselves of the issue in June 2016, while Petit Chateau de la Mer Association – a group of apartments opposite the Ommarroo Hotel at Havre des Pas – handed over £22,500 on 30th June this year.
However, that sum could be set to increase to six figures, after DfI confirmed last week that a number of other contracts are, “…currently under negotiation.”
Those payments only constitute a transfer of a right to maintain the status quo – not ownership or the ability to build or develop the land in future. Contracts viewed by Express also showed that the owners could at any time be given two weeks’ notice to carry out works on the sea wall, steps leading from it or the land behind it - all of which at their expense and “to the entire satisfaction of the Minister for Infrastructure.”
The contracts, which were passed through the Royal Court, did not show whether those rights would be transferable to any future purchasers of those properties, raising fears that the charges could rear their head with each subsequent sale by a new owner.
It is also unknown at this stage how many homeowners could be affected at this stage, but it is believed that the issue could affect those with property along the sea wall from Havre des Pas to Fauvic.
Pictured: Properties along the sea wall from Havre des Pas to Fauvic, like Mr Luce's, could be affected pending DfI's review. (Google Maps)
St Clement Deputy Simon Brée has since hit out at the “heavy handedness” of DfI, claiming that he was “fundamentally against” what appeared to be a “moneymaking exercise and government with a big G.”
“I am very concerned of the actions of the Department. The Government of Jersey must understand that they govern on behalf of and for the Public of Jersey. This approach to things does nobody any good and people start to question the integrity of the department that are doing this. It’s absolutely atrocious... I can’t see any other reason than they are purely looking at every opportunity to raise money from the public and this is a form of very heavy handed sledgehammered crack and nut approach. Why are they doing it? If it is not purely to raise money, then why are they doing it?”
He added: “The Crown would not have gifted that land to the Public of the Island of Jersey solely as a revenue-raising measure. It is madness in its extreme.”
He took further issue with the fact that people were being asked to pay for offending breaches placed there by previous owners, such as balconies and steps leading to the beach, and given full Planning approval before the land fell into States ownership.
Pictured: Planning approval was given on many of the encroachments before the properties were bought by new owners, as was the case for Alan Luce. The offending balcony in his case had been placed there before he moved in in 2005 (inset).
“All have had to require planning approval. You buy a house, you apply for approval, it’s granted, that should be the end of it. To insist that since the Crown gifted this land, you now owe a department huge amounts of money, I think it is a very dubious practice,” he commented.
Grouville Deputy Carolyn Labey also raised questions over this, stating that it seemed, “…remiss of the States or whoever was responsible for that land” to have not regulated development over what formerly belonged to the Crown over a period of decades.
She expressed regret, however, over the lost promenade walk as a result of this building – a view shared by the Constable of Grouville, John Le Maistre.
“I can see both sides of the argument. If people have encroached on land then it’s their fault, and I accept the point that people bought it thinking they owned it but perhaps their lawyers should have said when they passed the deeds… There was a nice walk all the way along there and now there’s a lot of stretches where nobody can walk, so the public themselves have actually lost something – that needs to be taken into consideration as well.”
He said that he did “feel for people” affected, however, and would be willing to speak with those affected.
The Constable of St Clement, Len Norman, said that he had no knowledge of the issue prior to to Express’ article and that he would not be taking any active steps following its revelation.
Deputy Brée, however, said that he will be putting pressure on DfI to maintain transparency over the issue.
Pictured: Deputy for St Clement Simon Brée described the measure as "madness in its extreme" and called on coastal property owners to contact their elected representatives for help.
“What the public need is a clear message from the Department that they are going to either go after absolutely everybody that’s got property that could conceivably fall within the catchment or they’re not. Without that, people living along the coast have no idea what’s going to happen and when, or if it’s going to be only when a property is sold,” he said.
In the interim, he is calling on all concerned coastal homeowners to help raise the problem's profile.
“I would urge any member of the public that is worried or has been approached by the Department to contact their States representative. Contact everybody – the Constable, the Senators because they have an Island-wide responsibility – as many people as you can, because this has to be dealt with, and the more examples that those of us that are concerned can have, it means we can do something about it.”
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