The Law Society has said it is "disappointed" about the lack of progress over the foreshore policy, and called out the Government's property portfolio head for suggesting they were in discussions, when there had been no contact in months.
CEO Neville Benbow said the governing body of lawyers practising as Advocates and Solicitors of the Royal Court of Jersey had had no involvement with the Foreshore Encroachment Policy since a letter they sent to the Scrutiny Panel reviewing it on 4 December 2020.
He added that it was a “big assumption that sea walls were always built above the high-water mark and on Crown-owned land”, questioning whether some coastal properties might in fact be on historic land owned by Seigneurs of the island.
He went on to blast the decision not to release the 'Master Schedule' - a map detailing the foreshore's boundary and which properties encroach on it - particularly given that much of the information it is based upon is already in the public domain.
Pictured: More than 400 properties are affected by the foreshore policy.
More than 400 properties are affected by the policy, which sees owners of coastal homes forced to pay ‘compensation’ to the Government if their properties are deemed to encroach on the foreshore, which is defined as the zone between the high and low tide marks.
A policy for dealing with the encroachments was approved by the States Assembly earlier this year, following an amendment by Deputy Carolyn Labey, which was, in effect, her own version of the policy.
It suggested that minor encroachments should be allowed to remain under conditions set out in a licence agreement, whereas more significant ones may have to be removed with the owner contributing financially. This contribution may vary depending on the age of the encroachment.
Mr Benbow said that the Law Society’s position remains unchanged today.
Grilled by a Scrutiny panel of politicians tasked with reviewing the Foreshore Policy in July, Jersey Property Holdings Director (JPH) Tim Daniels explained that the passing of the proposition had thrown up a number of "challenges".
However, he said the Government was "currently in discussion with the Law Officers’ Department and also the Law Society to work out the best approach."
But this was disputed by Mr Benbow, who said that the Law Society had not had any discussions with Mr Daniels’ department in recent months.
Pictured: Tim Daniels, the Director of Jersey Property Holdings.
“I can confirm that, notwithstanding the assertions made by Tim Daniels to Scrutiny, the Law Society has not had any recent contact with JPH nor are we currently engaged in any discussions in relation to the Foreshore Encroachment Policy," he commented.
The CEO of the Law Society went on to express his dismay over the lack of progress on the policy, more than four years after Express first revealed that the Government was pursuing sea wall property owners for payments.
“It is disappointing that, notwithstanding the passage of time, nothing appears to be happening to address this important issue, which continues to impact on, and create unnecessary and ongoing uncertainty for, property owners in Jersey’s foreshore,” he said.
Chair of the Foreshore Review Panel Constable Mike Jackson wrote to Infrastructure Minister Deputy Kevin Lewis at the beginning of this month to ask why he still hadn’t replied to his panel's critical report published in January, against a rule requiring Ministers to formally respond within six weeks.
He also noted that it was “disappointing” the challenges expressed by Mr Daniels during July's hearing had not been communicated to the Panel in the July hearing, and urged the Minister to publish his response by the end of the month.
The Minister is yet to reply to that letter or provide his full response to the Panel's report.
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