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Tamba Park: Minister's decision risks turning Planning Committee into "court of law"

Tamba Park: Minister's decision risks turning Planning Committee into

Tuesday 21 August 2018

Tamba Park: Minister's decision risks turning Planning Committee into "court of law"

A Deputy on the Planning Committee is asking for the Environment Minister's decision to refuse plans for a 'holiday village' at Tamba Park to be revoked over concerns it could jeopardise the whole planning process.

Deputy Scott Wickenden says that by including the word "precedent" in his Ministerial Decision setting out his refusal to permit a 27 units of accommodation and a four-bedroom house to be built at the dinosaur-themed attraction, Deputy John Young, the Environment Minister, has "inadvertently included 'precedent' as a future planning consideration."

He argued that following this logic means that property owners could use previous decisions to justify pushing for the approval of their applications, even though decisions are supposed to be taken on a case-by-case basis.

Deputy Young rejected Tamba Park owner Jonathan Ruff's plans to to demolish disused glasshouses, including a packing station and box-making factory, and replace them with 13 two-bedroom and 14 three-bedroom self-catering lodges as well as four ancillary buildings in July. He said he didn't agree with the conclusions of Independent Planning Inspector, Graham Self, who conducted a £25,400 Planning Inquiry. Mr Self had concluded the planning gains were enough to overcome the concerns, which included Tamba Park's location in the Green Zone.

Deputy Young said that building the holiday village "would result in serious harm to the landscape and character of this area and the envisaged environmental enhancements and tourism benefits are not enough to overcome this harm." He added that the development went against the strategic aims of the Island Plan and was in breach of the Green Zone policy, which he described as the foundation of Jersey's planning policy.

Glass Houses Tamba Park Fire

Pictured: Tamba Park is located in the Green Zone. (Google Maps). 

In his Ministerial Decision, Deputy Young wrote: "The Minister has weighed up the benefits and disbenefits of the schemes, and concluded that the scheme does not justify what would be a significant departure from Island Plan Policy, which would also set a precedent for the redevelopment of other glasshouse sites and an expectation that these can be replaced with major new development in the countryside."

Deputy Wickenden, who has been on the Planning Committee for the past four years, has now published a proposition asking for the decision to be rescinded, expressing serious concerns over the use of the word "precedent." He told Express: "Whenever a planning application comes through, you do not consider precedent. That is the first thing you learn when you join the Planning Committee. 

"The Minister sets the policy. By mentioning 'precedent' in his Ministerial Decision he lays that precedent and sets it out for the future. It would mean that someone could come up with 30 other similar applications that have been approved in the past to get theirs approved, regardless of other considerations that were given. I don't accept that. Each application is different and should be judged on its own merits, not based on other applications that have previously gone before the committee."


Pictured: Deputy Wickenden is concerned that the Minister's decision could jeopardise the whole planning process.

Deputy Wickenden is worried that a precedent would weaken the whole planning application process. He says that allowing precedent to be taken into consideration would allow not only supporters but also opponents to browse over 50 years of Planning Application to use similar applications to make their case. "My proposition is not about the application, it is not about the approval or not, but about the process. This is very dangerous and could cause more trouble. All I am trying to do is stopping the ability to use examples where bad decisions have been made. 

"I want to make sure the process is strengthened. Precedents would turn the process into a court of law where both sides could come up with previous cases supporting their views. This is not what we need."

Deputy Wickenden's suggestion will now be debated on 25 September. If the Assembly agrees that Deputy Young should rescind his decision, he will be asked to refer the decision back to the Planning Committee.

Deputy Wickenden explained: "You can't ask the Minister to rescind his decision, remove 'precedent' and put it back, since the idea of precedent was the basis of his reasoning for rejecting the application. This would be unfair to the applicant, so somebody else should be considering it." 

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Posted by Dawn Armstrong on
What a strange suggestion from Mr Wickenden. Precedent has been used since time began in all manner of matters. It is at the core of civilization itself – we are all equal and should be treated equally. “Stare Decisis” (stand by decided matters) is the doctrine enshrined in Law.
Mr Wickenden is so wrong to object to the Minister’s concern about setting a precedent. The Minister is not establishing the concept of precedent, that I thought was accepted by all but now learn Mr Wickenden objects to this. The Minister is rightly concerned about setting A precedent.
ALL planning applications are required by Law to be evaluated against the Island Plan and the planning authority is required under that Law to grant permission IF the application is in accordance with the Island Plan. To state that all applications should stand on their own merit is misleading, they should all be judged against the Island Plan and not how nice or how good they are for the Island. The Island Plan is key.
What the Minister is saying I believe is that he is concerned that the Island Plan is not specific and prescriptive enough in some places and he wants to correct this before A precedent is set.
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