An appeal by the Parish of St Helier to continue enjoying free waste disposal thanks to an old legal agreement has failed, paving the way for commercial waste disposal charges and a potential bill for the parish in excess of £200k.
In 1952, St Helier struck a deal – known as the Bellozanne Covenant – whereby it sold land at Bellozanne to the States to build a waste incinerator. In exchange, it was agreed that St Helier residents would not have to pay for getting rid of their rubbish.
But a three-day case last September saw the Royal Court conclude that the covenants were “spent and extinguished” – a victory for ‘the Public’, represented by the Minister for Infrastructure, Eddie Noel.
Last month, the Parish fought that conclusion on the grounds that the 65-year-old covenants should protect parishioners’ pockets from fees à fin d’héritage – “in perpetuity” – as the contract states.
Court of Appeal: "in perpetuity" (à fin d'héritage) in a contract doesn't necessarily mean forever https://t.co/cuShGLO8oD— Geraint Jennings (@GeraintJennings) February 21, 2017
In his judgement, however, John Martin QC agreed with the Public, which contended that the covenants were, “…meant to last only so long as the destructors remained in working order, or until the Public gave reasonable notice to terminate the obligation imposed by them.”
According to Mr Martin, the outcome of the dispute will likely have, “substantial financial consequences” with a £75 million new sewage treatment works planned to be built on Bellozanne land.
“If the covenants in the 1952 Contract oblige the States to continue to accept rubbish at the Bellozanne land, it will be impossible to build the sewage treatment works,” the judgement read.
This isn’t the only financial implication. Not only has the outcome set the scene for Ministers' commercial waste charge to be ushered in, but will see the Parish faced with footing a hefty legal bill.
Pictured: Minister for Infrastructure Eddie Noel, who fought the Parish of St Helier.
In November last year, St Helier's legal costs stood at £145,051 excluding GST, comprising approximately £125,000 for defending the Parish’s position following the Minister’s challenge, plus approximately £20,000 following the decision to appeal. The total cost of the appeal was thought to be at least £50,000.
At the time, Constable Simon Crowcroft defended the expenditure on the basis that, “If charged for, waste disposal will cost St Helier ratepayers at least half a million pounds per annum, so the legal fees involved in defending our position are necessary and proportionate in my opinion and that of the Procureurs du Bien Public.”
Following the failed appeal, the Parish will now have to cover the Department for Infrastructure's legal fees too - pushing the overall cost well over £200,000.
Silvio Alves, St Helier Director for Technical and Environmental Services, commented: “We’re disappointed that the appeal was unsuccessful, but the Constable will consider his position. I know that he is due to meet with the Parish of St Helier deputies to discuss the way forward, but at this stage, we don’t know what that will be.”
Constable Simon Crowcroft was unavailable for comment.
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