The owners of the former Water’s Edge Hotel in Bouley Bay are fighting to stop a public inquiry into plans to redevelop the tourist site into a luxury super-home.
The company that owns the former hotel, which closed its doors in 2015, wants to appeal the decision of the Environment Minister to refer its application to an independent planning inspector.
The company took the first legal step on Friday: asking the Royal Court for leave to apply for a judicial review of Deputy John Young’s decision, which he formally made on 1 October.
Plans were submitted last June to demolish the hotel and build a single dwelling as well as a dive centre and café.
A planning application has already been passed to build 25 self-catered units on the site but the owners prefer the single-home plan.
Making the hotel’s case to the Bailiff, Advocate Rebecca McNulty said that Deputy Young’s decision was unlawful because he had made it under an article of the planning law which which allows the Minister to call in an application for a planning inquiry where he or she is satisfied that “the proposed development is likely to have significant effect on the whole population of Jersey or a substantial part of it.”
She argued that the Minister had misinterpreted or misapplied the law because the application did not fall within this definition.
She also argued that the Minister had predetermined his decision over a month before the 1 October announcement when he had sent an email to the Head of Planning saying that calling in the application for a public inquiry was “non-negotiable”.
This was after the Constable of Trinity had been interviewed on the radio saying he supported the application.
The Constable was being interviewed in his capacity as head of the parish within which Bouley Bay sits but Philip Le Sueur is also chair of the Planning Committee.
Deputy Young has emailed him afterwards to say he thought the Constable’s expression of support had been “unwise” and followed it up with another email to apologise for the first abrupt response.
In it, the Minister said he wanted the inquiry because he was concerned about loss of tourism in a prime site within the Coastal National Park and the impact of building a high-net-worth residence on the community.
Advocate McNulty said these reasons were different from those given when the Minister formally announced the public inquiry, which included recognising the island’s “pressing housing need” and examining whether the application was appropriate in the context of existing and emerging Island Plan policies.
This inconsistency was further evidence of predetermination, she argued.
The lawyer also pointed out that a recent approval to build a high-net-worth residence in Grève de Lecq on the site of the old Romany Café had not gone to a planning inquiry.
Representing the Minister, Advocate James Rondel denied that the Minister had already made up his mind when he sent the earlier emails, as he was entitled to a “safe space” to air his thoughts, which he could subsequently modify.
This was the case here, he argued, due to the time elapsed between the August emails and the October announcement, and the fact that the reasons given had been different.
He also said that, under the law, he did not need to give reasons when calling in an application for a public inquiry, and Bouley Bay was enjoyed by many islanders and there was also widespread interest in the Coastal National Park.
The hearing also established that, should any appeal be successful, the matter would return, by law, to the Minister, who could order a planning inquiry for the second time.
This would, however, likely be a different Minister as Deputy Young has already announced that he is not seeking re-election in June.
The Bailiff, Tim Le Cocq, reserved his decision on whether he will grant leave to appeal.
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