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"Forensic" probe into planning row

Thursday 23 January 2020

"Forensic" probe into planning row

A "forensic" review into a planning row, which saw the former owners of the Jersey Royal Company claim they were they were “mistreated” by officials who made a “sport” out of rejecting their applications, has been ordered by the Environment Minister.

Tom and Rose Binet applied for planning permission to demolish a shed and workshop to make way for worker housing in 2018, but had their application refused.

The handling of their application prompted the pair to make a formal complaint against the Environment Minister, who holds responsibility for the Planning Department, leading to a States Complaints Board hearing in which they accused officials of dishonesty, bias and intentionally frustrating their farmland development bid.


Pictured: The Environment Minister, Deputy John Young, who has responsibility for the Planning Department.

Although that complaint was then upheld by the board, which found that the department had issued a report containing “untruths” about the Binets’ planning application, the Environment Minister initially dismissed the concerns. 

The pair responded furiously, teaming up with other aggrieved islanders, as well as launching a petition demanding a full investigation into the Planning Department

Now, in an apparent U-turn, the Minister has agreed to an independent inquiry into the handling of the Binets’ planning request. 

In a statement, Deputy Young said that he had been swayed by further comments made by the States Complaints Board panel, and felt that it would help the public regain trust in the planning system. 

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Pictured: The States Complaints Board found that a planning officer's reports contained "errors of fact".

He commented: “It is important for the public to remain confident in the planning system and that the difference of opinion is resolved, and all doubt removed.

“Therefore, notwithstanding the Board’s absolute independence, I have asked the Judicial Greffe, via its planning appeal process, to appoint an independent planning inspector to: 

  • conduct a retrospective forensic review of the application;
  • the evidence provided;
  • the process undertaken by the department;
  • the officers’ report to the Committee;
  • and the Planning Committee’s decision.”

The Minister added: “I will request that the planning inspector’s report is produced within the next three months and, whatever the findings may be, if there are any lessons to be learnt that all parties involved, including myself, utilise the opportunity.”

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