A major Waterfront development which could see almost 1,000 new homes built in St. Helier is in jeopardy after successive governments failed to tackle the island’s toxic waste issue.
The States of Jersey Development Company has unveiled ambitious plans to redevelop the Waterfront which include new leisure and arts facilities, swimming pools and an arthouse cinema, as well as 984 flats.
The Strategic Housing and Regeneration Team in the Cabinet Office backs JDC’s plans to build close to 1,000 homes, at least 15% of which will be on sale through an assisted-purchase scheme.
However, the Planning Department has said that it cannot support the application due to the proposals to dig out 237,437m3 of contaminated waste to create underground parking and service space because the Island has nowhere to put the toxic spoil.
Pictured: La Collette reclamation site.
In the past decade, approximately 250,000 tonnes of hazardous waste have been disposed of at La Collette meaning it is possible that the contaminated soil excavated at the Waterfront would exceed the total amount delivered to La Collette in the past decade.
This week, the Planning Committee – a panel made up of politicians - opted not to formally ratify its refusal to allow giant mounds of toxic waste to be added to at La Collette for at least six months, meaning that the waste mountain can continue to grow in the meantime.
Infrastructure Minister Tom Binet has promised to tackle the issue of what to do with the Island’s contaminated and inert waste.
But the current uncertainty is set to cause problems for the JDC over it’s Waterfront application.
Pictured: A impression of how the Waterfront may look under the JDC's plans.
A public inquiry is due to be held next month, chaired by an independent planning inspector, who will make a recommendation to the Environment Minister as to whether the JDC’s ‘South West St. Helier’ project should be approved or not. One of the key documents that feeds into that process is a ‘statement of case’ from Planning, which sets out the department’s own views on the proposal.
In its statement of case, the department has argued that the JDC’s proposed Waterfront development would “yield a significant volume of untreated, contaminated material” which, according to the application, would be disposed of at La Collette.
Planning continued that it already had ”concerns regarding the capacity of La Collette” and stated that it cannot support the application as there is “currently no identified means of disposal of contaminated waste arising from the development”.
The soil at the Waterfront is contaminated because the reclamation site was allowed to be filled with ash from the Bellozanne incinerator mixed with inert waste.
In 2008, then-Senator Stuart Syvret unsuccessfully called for a committee of inquiry to review the decisions made at the time to allow toxic ash to be used as reclamation infill. The proposition was ultimately lost.
Stricter regulations on the disposal of incinerator ash imposed since the Waterfront land was reclaimed in the 80s mean that any soil dug out as part of any new development is considered contaminated and treated differently to inert waste, which is stored at a separate part of La Collette that is also at capacity.
However, the government does not have official permission to accept more hazardous waste at La Collette.
Pictured: Infrastructure Minister Tom Binet has promised to tackle the Island's toxic waste issue
In addition to the amount of contaminated waste that will be dug up, Planning also has concerns about other facets of the application, including the scheme’s impact on the wider landscape, townscape and seascape.
Another statement of case, from Infrastructure and Environment’s Solid Waste Department, suggested that the JDC’s estimate for the amount of hazardous waste has been downplayed with the “more likely volume requiring immediate containment is 262,000 m3”.
The Solid Waste Department also said that the volume of waste from other developments, including at Tunnell Street/Gas Place, Overdale and the Elizabeth Harbour redevelopment is as yet unknown.
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