The Infrastructure Minister has admitted it's a "possibility" that the government has lost more money pursuing coastal property owners for encroachment fines than it has gained.
The comments from Deputy Kevin Lewis came as he was quizzed about the ongoing foreshore dispute during a hearing with the Environment, Housing and Infrastructure Scrutiny Panel yesterday.
The land dispute dates back to 2015 when the Queen gifted the Foreshore – a vaguely-defined strip of land bordering the Island lying between the “low water mark and high water mark of the full spring tide” – to the ‘Public of the Island of Jersey’.
Pictured: Alan Luce was fined £30,000 plus legal fees when he tried to sell up his sea wall-side property.
Little more than 60 days after receiving that ‘gift’, the government began pursuing homeowners whose properties either partially or fully sat on that land for ‘compensation’ – even if the encroachments weren’t their fault.
The first of those was Alan Luce, who was fined £30,000 plus legal fees when he tried to sell up his sea wall-side property.
Julian Mallinson was also forced to pay £20,000 for encroachments that included a set of steps from his Greve d'Azette-based property to the beach, which had been approved by both the Planning Department and the Queen's land administrator while the land still belonged to the Crown.
When asked whether he would have dealt with the situation differently had he been in post in 2015, Deputy Lewis replied: “It’s a very hypothetical question”.
“I wasn’t there at the time but there is a basic principle, 'You shouldn’t build on land that’s not yours',” he went on to say.
“We have to protect the public; this protection works both ways. The public has a right to enjoy the foreshore by walking on it. Had the foreshore not been built on over the last few centuries, then we could have had a walkway around that part of the island, part of the cycle path could have run that way, but we are where we are there have been encroachments for whatever reason. This is what we are trying to firm up now.”
Pictured: Brise de Mer, Julian Mallinson's Greve d'Azette-based apartment complex, and the stamp of approval from the Queen's representative allowing him to develop on the Foreshore.
Deputy Kirsten Morel suggested that dealing with Messrs Luce and Mallinson’s transactions had cost the government over £100,000, considering the Complaints Board had been constituted and officers were still working on it.
“Did you meet the optimum benefit threshold?” Deputy Morel asked, to which the Minister replied: “I wouldn’t want to comment on that, I don’t have that information.”
Pressed by Deputy Morel, he added: “There is a principle that we need to uphold but as for the actual benefit I am not sure of the money situation.”
Deputy Morel then suggested the government had paid more than it received in dealing with those transactions and was therefore in “negative territory”. The Minister admitted it was a “possibility”.
Pictured: Deputy Kirsten Morel suggested the government paid more than it received.
“I wouldn’t like to hazard a guess, but there is a principle to uphold,” he added. “Nobody was going after these fees for the transactions. The transactors were coming to us for clarification.”
However, this contrasts with the version of events given by Mr Luce and Mr Mallinson.
Shortly after advertising his home for sale in September 2015, Mr Luce received a letter from JPH stating that his residence had encroached on States turf, and that he should pay up for the privilege of letting the offending items – a balcony and extensions abutting the sea wall – rest in place. The alternative he was presented with was to face a “complete removal” of the offending 8ft area, which extended into the property itself.
The States also wrote to Mr Mallinson in 2015 to tell him that part of his Greve d’Azette-based Brise de Mer apartment complex breached the Public-owned foreshore.
Express has asked the government’s press office for information on how much has been spent pursuing Foreshore fines, but is yet to receive a response.
The news comes after Deputy Carolyn Labey this week launched a bid to bin the government’s controversial practice with an urgent ‘cease and desist’ order that will face a States Assembly vote in March.
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