The former Treasury Minister is looking to strike a field swap deal with the Parish of St. Lawrence – but some parishioners are yet to be convinced.
Former Senator Alan Maclean is looking to exchange a six vergée field he owns for a four vergée one owned by St. Lawrence next to his house, and has offered to pay all the Parish’s legal costs.
He argues it's to protect the field from development, but some parishioners are alleging that he's really aiming to build on the field.
The matter was brought to a parish meeting for consideration and approval on Monday night, but divided opinions among a crowd of over 50 parishioners – some of whom worried that the transaction wouldn't be in the parish's best interests – saw it adjourned.
They’re now holding fire on a decision until an independent review – funded by Mr Maclean himself – has been completed.
Some parishioners are also calling for an agreement that ensures the land can't be developed.
But Mr Maclean assured Express: "I felt acquiring the parish field would add further protection for the future as we love the quiet rural situation and want to ensure it is never compromised with any building or unpleasant activities anywhere near us."
The Procureur du Bien Public Bruce Harrison, who presided over the parish meeting in the absence of Constable Deidre Mezbourian, also said that Mr Maclean “has no intention to develop the field” and that he wants it for agricultural use.
Despite these assurances, a parishioner who attended the meeting on Monday, Stephen Cohu, asked the Assembly if, should the exchange go ahead, the land will be protected under an agreement called a ‘covenant’ which prevents any development as the field is currently in the Green Zone.
Mr Cohu made the point that although Mr Maclean may not have any intention of developing the land right now, the option to re-zone the land and obtain planning permission would be open to him if the land were left without a covenant. He added: “If he sold the place, then the next person could do something with it.”
Pictured: St. Lawrence Parish Hall, where the Assembly took place on Monday to discuss Alan Maclean's field swap. (Google Maps)
He continued that he didn’t object to the deal in itself per se, but that people living in St. Lawrence can’t possibly be expected to make a decision on the matter without all the relevant information. One parishioner who contacted Express said the parish deputies themselves weren't even aware of the proposed deal until as little as one week before the meeting.
Mr Cohu said that the parish notice issued before the meeting explained the premise of the swap but didn’t go into much detail. “There was no other information about the financial aspects of it, the value of the land, who’d valued it... or how much the land effectively was worth to him… so we were expected to turn up to the meeting and cast a vote without actually knowing any of the facts.”
The meeting was attended by over 50 people, with 34 attendees voting to adjourn the matter until a review could be conducted to ascertain all of the facts versus 16 votes against the deferral and a few abstentions.
When asked what his views were about the prospect of the field swap, Mr Cohu said that he had no problem making a decision, “...once the due diligence has been completed and proper values have been obtained as to what the land is actually worth to him as opposed to the piece of land that he’s swapping... If that’s a fair swap then it’s a fair swap.”
Mr Maclean told Express that he had previously offered to buy the field, but that the offer was turned down by the Constable, who instead proposed a like-for-like swap that could be agreed at a parish meeting.
Pictured: Mr Maclean has reportedly been interested in the land next to his house for quite some time and spoke to the Constable of St. Lawrence, Deidre Mezbourian, about the possibility of a land swap.
"I made an offer to buy the parish field and trees to remove the significant cost of maintenance of the trees from the parish and to improve my property including the important visual appearance of a currently untidy northern boundary upon which the trees are located," he explained.
"The parish wouldn't sell outright but were prepared to consider a land swap for a better quality and much larger field with better access. I owned such a field in the parish, close to the parish hall and offered to exchange it for the one bordering my land." He added that the field he owns is near the Parish Hall is "not only 50% larger, but has a rental value of more than double the current parish field."
The Constable made Mr Maclean aware that she would be unable to attend this week’s meeting due to being away from the island, but Mr Maclean was happy to go ahead and discuss the matter on Monday regardless.
Mr Maclean told Express that he has made an agreement with the farmer who already rents the land in the parish field, and that he is "is supportive of the proposal and would remain to farm the land if the exchange goes ahead."
Pictured: The St. Lawrence Parish notice outlining the land exchange matter. (States Gazette)
Procureur Mr Harrison will now talk to Mr Maclean to begin arrangements for the Independent Review, the costs of which will be covered by the ex-States Member, and the matter will be brought back to the parish meeting in due course.
Commenting on the future of the proposal, Mr Maclean said that after the parishioners have been given more time and information to make the decision, he is "hopeful" they'll agree to the deal.
"...The facts will speak for themselves, the benefits to the parish will be clear and the proposal will eventually be supported."
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