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£120m town development 'unviable' if 15% of flats have to be affordable

£120m town development 'unviable' if 15% of flats have to be affordable

Wednesday 23 August 2023

£120m town development 'unviable' if 15% of flats have to be affordable

Wednesday 23 August 2023

£120m plans to build more than 200 flats in the heart of town will no longer be viable if 15% of them have to be made ‘affordable’ because margins are already so squeezed by soaring costs and falling house prices, the developer has warned.

A decision on whether 'Les Sablons' – a significant transformation of the four-vergée site between Broad Street and Commercial Street – should be allowed to go ahead is still yet to be made.

Plans were first unveiled by private family-owned business Le Masurier in March last year for a £120m project, which included 137 one-bedroom, 96 two-bedroom and five three-bedroom apartments, together with a restaurant, shops and a 103-room ‘apart-hotel’, all built around a central courtyard linked to both streets.

The scheme was refused by the Planning Committee last December, a decision which Le Masurier appealed in January. In April, independent inspector Philip Staddon heard evidence from Planning and the developer, and his recommendation on whether the appeal should be accepted or rejected is yet to be published.

36 units for assisted purchase?

However, before Assistant Environment Minister Hilary Jeune rules on the appeal, with her decision informed by whatever Mr Staddon recommends, she has now asked the inspector to do more work.

Pictured: The plans include building on a private car-park off Commercial Street. (Google Maps)

A Ministerial Decision signed off earlier this month – and made public for the first time this week – shows that Deputy Jeune wants Mr Staddon to make an “objective assessment” on whether a newly implemented planning policy – which requires at least 15% of new homes on development schemes of 50 properties or more to be available for assisted purchase – should apply to Les Sablons.

If the policy were to be applied, the developer would have to allocate up to 36 units to an assisted purchase scheme.

This ‘supplementary planning guidance’ was adopted at the end of July and came into force straight away, with the underlying policy, called ‘H6’, agreed by States Members last year as part of the Bridging Island Plan.

Although the policy became law after the independent planning inspector’s report was prepared and submitted, it was before the appeal was determined by the  Assistant Minister.

Environment Minister Jonathan Renouf is not taking part in any decision-making on this application because, before being elected last year, he was a member of the National Trust Council which recorded an objection to it.

"Construction cost inflation is running into double digits"

Le Masurier Managing Director Brian McCarthy said that the application of policy H6 to Les Sablons would make the scheme unviable.

He said: “We submitted our planning application in March 2022 and since then interest rates have rocketed, construction cost inflation is running into double digits, house prices have stagnated and in some cases are actually falling. 

“Add to the fact that we are charged a planning obligation agreement, percentage for art contribution and taxed at 20% on any development profit, any provision of affordable homes will make the development unviable.”

Asked for his reaction to the appeal being sent back to Mr Staddon, Mr McCarthy said: “All we can do is sit on our hands and await a Ministerial Decision which is likely to be well over half a year from our appeal hearing.

“Interventions like this just prevent opportunities from the private sector to bring forward developments that create housing, new hotel stock, regeneration, placemaking and employment.”


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£120m Broad Street revamp branded “banal and unimaginative”

INSIGHT: Is an unofficial planning 'tax' pushing up the cost of housing?


At the time the plans were launched, Express spoke to Mr McCarthy about the vision for Les Sablons and the wider regeneration of St. Helier...

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