Wooden steps leading to the beach which were approved by the Queen’s own Island representative formed part of a £20k “checklist” of charges from the States to a coastal property owner over Foreshore ‘encroachments’, it has emerged.
Chartered surveyor Julian Mallinson says he was forced to pay thousands to the States after trying to sell his Greve d’Azette-based Brise de Mer apartments – £3,000 of which related to a set of just eight steps which were approved by Her Majesty’s land administrator while the Foreshore was still in Crown ownership.
He’s the second islander to have fallen victim to what is now being dubbed by outraged islanders on social media as the “Backdated Foreshore Infringement Tax (BFIT)” and blasted by St Clement politician Deputy Simon Bree as a “moneymaking exercise and government with a big G.”
Pictured: The location of Brise de Mer apartments along the Greve d'Azette strip.
The States wrote to Mr Mallinson in 2015 to tell him that part of the apartment complex breached the Public-owned 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”, with the sea wall failing to serve as any kind of boundary marker. That land was gifted from the Queen to the Public of Jersey in 2015, after which point the States began recovering money from those in encroaching coastal accommodation.
Mr Mallinson said that he was “forced” to accept the conclusions of a surveyor chosen by the States. “You would expect to be able to negotiate on price, but there was zero negotiation. You’re told a figure. It’s take it or leave it.”
If he had left it, however, he said that he may have faced losing the sale – and much more money on legal fees: “If I had refused, I would have had to take it to court. My understanding there would be a six-figure sum. It would take a year plus. It didn’t make sense doing it. I might win, but I would have lost out financially doing it.”
Jersey Property Holdings (JPH), who manage the States’ fixed assets and administered the transaction, told Mr Mallinson that he would have to pay up for both the property on the disputed land – even though the extent of the encroachments remained unclear – and for a set of eight wooden steps leading to the beach below.
Pictured: HM Receiver General David Pett gave his stamp of approval to the Planning application for steps leading down to the beach.
The issue, however, was that those steps were approved by Planning two years before the land passed from Crown to States ownership in 2013. Moreover, they had received the stamp of approval from Her Majesty’s Receiver General, David Pett.
“The Crown is signing my application, giving me permission, Planning gave me permission but then I was the first person in the Island for [JPH] to say, ‘You have to pay for that now – and we can’t even guarantee that you can keep your steps there.’ To my mind it’s not reasonable,” Mr Mallinson explained.
But when he brought this argument to JPH, “…they rolled their eyes at it. They just didn’t want to talk about it.”
Moreover, he was also charged for alleged use of the relief – a boundary between two landowners which must not be built on.
“Usually between neighbours there’s a relief where there’s an offset of a foot and a half. Technically, you’re not allowed to occupy it but most people have a flowerbed there or the grass grows up to there. With the sea wall, they’re saying, ‘You have to pay for the relief.’ Well I said, ‘I haven’t got any building in your foot and a half.’ But they said, ‘No, you could go up there, sit down, have a cigarette, leaning and looking at the view.’ …That cost me I think it was 1,800 quid. It was just a checklist of things.”
Pictured: Dozens of properties in the area include the same kind of steps from the sea wall to the beach and could be subject to the same billing from the States, Mr Mallinson warns.
Similarly to Alan Luce, another homeowner made to fork out £30,000 or face having his house sale fall through, Mr Mallinson felt the States had used his selling as “leverage” – moves he described as “sneaky” and “unfair”.
“It’s a revenue-generating exercise, but what annoys me is that if they think that everyone is breaking the law, why haven’t they written to everyone down there? Because they know it would go to class action.
“They’re chipping away getting anyone to pay. They’re getting half a dozen people this year, and they’ll say to others, ‘They did it, you’ll have to agree’… And that’s going to happen to everyone with steps down to the beach on the whole island even though they’ve been there for years and they’ve got planning consent for it.”
The States, who defend their actions as “protect[ing] the Public’s interest as a landowner”, have so far collected around £70,000 from coastal homeowners in little over 12 months. Most recently, they secured a sum of £22,500 from the Petit Chateau de Mer Association – a group of apartments opposite the Ommaroo Hotel at Havre des Pas. Nonetheless, that number could be set to hit six figures after the Department for Infrastructure confirmed to Express that there were a number of other contracts currently “under negotiation.”
However, as Express revealed last week, contracts settled so far have not provided protection against the future purchasers of those properties, meaning that the cycle of coastal payments could continue in perpetuity.
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