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Deputy renews push to end Foreshore fines

Deputy renews push to end Foreshore fines

Wednesday 05 August 2020

Deputy renews push to end Foreshore fines


A Deputy has brought back her bid to compensate coastal property owners who have previously been fined thousands for alleged encroachments on the Foreshore.

Deputy Carolyn Labey, the Minister for International Development, had previously withdrawn her proposition as a result of the pandemic.

Published in January, the urgent ‘cease and desist’ order was originally due to face a vote in the States Assembly in March.

Deputy Labey resubmitted it yesterday, meaning it will now be debated in September.

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Pictured: States Members will now debate the proposition in September.

The proposition is exactly the same as the one published in January, with the exception of a change in the date by which a Foreshore policy, accompanied by a map, should be debated, which is now January 2021.

It requests that Jersey Property Holdings immediately stop charging Islanders for alleged encroachments on the ill-defined Foreshore - an area known as the rough boundary between high and low tide - until the policy has been approved.

Deputy Labey also wants the Minister for Infrastructure to repay the property owners who have previously been fined for encroaching on the foreshore, and whose complaints were upheld by the States Complaints Board in 2018.

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.

The saga ended up nearly ruining the sale, delaying it by 15 months, and knocking over £100,000 off the house value in the process. Mr Luce said it left him so stressed that he decided to leave Jersey.

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Pictured: Alan Luce was fined £30,000 plus legal fees when he tried to sell up his sea wall-side property

Express also reported the case of Julian Mallinson, who was forced to pay £20,000 for encroachments that included a set up steps from his Greve d'Azette based property to the beach, which were approved by both the Planning Department and the Queen's land administrator while the land still belonged to the Crown.

In the report accompanying her proposition, Deputy Labey said she didn’t agree with encroaching on the foreshore or with private landowners blocking off public accesses, pathways and ancient rights of way. However, she suggested the actions taken by the former Infrastructure Minister, and upheld by the current one, Deputy Kevin Lewis, do not protect the land for the People of Jersey or “achieve best value for the public purse” as claimed by the Department”.

Earlier this year, Deputy Lewis actually admitted it was possible the Government had lost more money than it had gained pursuing coastal property owners.

During a previous hearing with the Environment, Housing and Infrastructure Scrutiny Panel, Deputy Kirsten Morel suggested that dealing with Mr Luce and Mr Mallinson’s transactions had cost the government over £100,000.

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Pictured: Julian Mallinson was fined for an encroachment that was approved by the Queen's own land administrator.

“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”.

Deputy Labey also suggested the practice of fining property owners was “disdainful”, referring to the fact the Government had “turned a blind eye to” encroachments before the land was gifted by the Queen.

“…While the Foreshore was owned by the Crown, the States were prepared to give planning permissions, convey properties, oversee contracts being passed in the Royal Court and collect Stamp Duty,” she explained.

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Pictured: Deputy Kevin Lewis admitted the Government may have lost money chasing Foreshore fines.

“Did the States of Jersey as leaseholders of the foreshore not have a duty of care to the Crown to stop these encroachments rather than encouraging them?”

As such, she suggested that the fines collected and States Treasury fines collected should instead be given back to the Crown.

Since Express first exposed the controversial ‘compensation’ practice in 2017, the government has defended it as being in line with its policy to provide the “best value” to the Public by securing the maximum possible financial return on any land it owns.

While Deputy Labey says she agrees with the Department for Infrastructure that land owned by the people of Jersey should be protected, she argues that this must be done “in a fair, consistent, even handed way”.

For that reason, she concludes, a policy that recognises public ownership of the land, while also operating in an “open and transparent manner, not arbitrarily or discriminatorily” should therefore be drawn up and voted on by the States Assembly.

“Property owners need to know exactly where they stand.”

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