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Third-time (un)lucky? Another push to get South Hill complex approved

Third-time (un)lucky? Another push to get South Hill complex approved

Friday 06 October 2023

Third-time (un)lucky? Another push to get South Hill complex approved

Friday 06 October 2023

The Government’s own development company hopes it will be third-time lucky for South Hill as it made another attempt today to have its plans for flats approved.

Jersey Development Company wants to knock down the long-empty former Planning Offices which overlook the Harbour and replace it with 139 units spread over three stepped buildings in the former quarry.

However, its proposals have been twice rejected by the Planning Committee and, this week, the taxpayer-owned organisation appealed against the second refusal to an independent inspector, who will recommend to the Environment Minister if the scheme – which is lower and smaller than JDC’s first incarnation – should be approved or not.

"An imaginative and sympathetic proposal"

In support of the appeal, Housing Minister David Warr opened the day-long hearing by announcing that the percentage of the 139 units that would join a shared-equity scheme for first-time buyers would increase from 15% – which is the minimum set out in legally binding planning policy – to 25%.

In practical terms, this would increase the number of subsidised homes from 21 to 35.

South Hill 850x500 Credit JDC.jpg

Pictured: An artist's impression of the development from the English Harbour. (JDC / FeildenCleggBradleyStudios)

Deputy Warr said: “The South Hill site has been a blot on the landscape since long before the planning and infrastructure departments vacated the site some five years ago.

“I believe the JDC have brought forward what is an imaginative and sympathetic proposal that will finally see this site put to good use. 

“The design of these new homes will deliver a high standard of liveability and will create the most environmentally friendly apartment development in Jersey, which I understand has twice been recommended for approval by Planning Officers [but then rejected by the Planning Committee].”

He added: “I believe this scheme to be a world class development that has thoughtfully responded to the space and the setting and the need to create a liveable place for all its residents.

“It has the full support of me as Minister for Housing and Communities, and I hope that it can be approved without further delay.”

"Too large, too dominant, too tall and too intrusive"

The Planning Committee refusal was due to several reasons, including a belief that the scheme would have “unacceptable impact on public views through the site,” particularly from the path behind the quarry face, the mix of units was not right, and too many flats at the back were single aspect and too close to the rock face.

South Hill 850x500 Credit JDC.jpg

Pictured: An artist's impression of the development from Victoria Pier. (JDC / FeildenCleggBradleyStudios)

Arguing on behalf of the committee on the first point, Planning Officer Jonathan Durbin said: “The proposal is too large, too dominant, too tall and too intrusive.

"Views from the Glacis Field, nearby hillside and the top of Mount Bingham would be harmed to an unacceptable level by its scale and mass."

However, planning consultant John Nicholson, for JDC, argued that the Bridging Island Plan, and official documents supporting it, listed key town vistas that needed to be protected, and the view from Mount Bingham wasn’t one of them.

Demand for smaller units

Planning also argued that the mix of 64 one-bedroom units, 69 two-beds and six three-beds did not support recognised housing need, but this was contested by JDC Chief Executive Officer Lee Henry, who said that the 2021 Census and other studies had concluded that the biggest demand was for smaller units.

One element for refusal did fall away when Planning accepted that updated plans from JDC had brought all units within the Government’s minimum space guidelines. These were submitted after the Planning Committee had identified that 18 units fell below the minimum size.

Concerns about the amount of waste that would be generated by excavation was also tempered by an assurance by JDC that all material would either be recycled onsite for reuse in the scheme or recycled for sale.

When it came to objections about the number of units with only one side with an outside view, the appeal heard that the project reached ‘Passivhaus’ standards, therefore was designed to minimise overheating and improve energy efficiency.

The lower flats at the rear of the main block would also look over a ‘green wall’ and were set back from the rockface, JDC also argued.

Planning inspector David Hainsworth will publish his recommendation in due course.

Last week, JDC's plans for the Waterfront were comprehensively rejected by a panel of politicians set up to determine the application. Read our in-depth analysis of why it was rejected here.


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