A public inquiry into major plans to revamp the Waterfront area with new leisure facilities and close to 1,000 homes has begun today with confusion over what exactly it is being asked to determine.
The publicly-owned Jersey Development Company’s plans to regenerate a large area of reclaimed land – stretching from the underpass to West Park – is being assessed by independent inspector Philip Staddon.
He will make a recommendation to a panel led by Environment Minister Jonathan Renouf as to whether JDCs outline plans should be approved or not.
JDC argue that ‘outline’ means that permission is being approved for maximum design perimeters only, with all detailed plans reserved for a future date.
On the opening day of a five-day inquiry, planning consultant John Nicholson, for JDC, said that this was to give the 12-year, four-phase project “flexibility” and to avoid mistakes of the past, when a previous Waterfront application which had been proposed in a single application had failed to get off the ground.
However, both the Planning Department and former Environment Minister John Young, who was speaking in a personal capacity, told the inquiry in its opening session that that information submitted with the application contained details that moved it beyond ‘outline’ and into the realm of firm approval.
Pictured: A public inquiry is being held at St. Paul's Centre this week.
Mr Staddon himself told the inquiry said a cynic might argue that JDC could be seeking to get planning permission “through the back door” in only asking for outline permission with all details included “for illustrative purposes only”.
Mr Nicholson denied this was the case, arguing that only "maximum plot layouts" were being determined at this stage.
Setting out JDC’s opening arguments, its CEO, Lee Henry, said: “The island has a need for 7,000 new homes by 2030. This demand is being created by the continuing trend for smaller household sizes and the requirement for inward migration to support the needs of the island as a result of the ageing population causing a reduction in the amount of working age people.
“The spatial strategy for the island, as re-stated in the Bridging Island Plan, is to focus new development within the existing built up areas. From a transport, infrastructure and environmental perspective this Waterfront area provides a natural extension to the town and provides the island with a release valve that will reduce pressure for green-field rezoning.
“Islanders who participated in the consultation process identified the need for new residential accommodation and that the Waterfront could provide for such use, however they also wanted the area to be landscape led and for the Waterfront to be a destination for islanders and visitors.
WATCH: A fly-through of the proposed plans by Jersey Development Company.
“We have taken these key directional markers and selected a design lead with landscaping at their core.
“As a result, 56% of the development area is dedicated to open space and public realm and as well as proposing almost 1,000 new homes, the area will also deliver an active ground plain with sport, leisure, art, culture and commercial uses at the ground floor.”
The Planning Department, however, have said that they cannot support the proposal. One significant reason is that the island cannot cope with the amount of excavated waste, including hazardous material, that proposed basement parking will generate.
To try to resolve the issue of the scope of the application and inquiry, Mr Staddon asked both JDC and the Planning Department to look to UK case law to find appropriate precedents.
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