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EXPRESS OPINION: This issue cuts to the heart of WHO a government is

EXPRESS OPINION: This issue cuts to the heart of WHO a government is

Tuesday 22 September 2020

EXPRESS OPINION: This issue cuts to the heart of WHO a government is


When Alan Luce came to us in mid-2017, with his story of being forced to pay close to £30,000 by the government in a battle over a vague land law, we knew immediately the implications radiated out far and wide from a short strip of coast in St. Clement.

After investigation and fact-checking, we originally published Alan’s story on 26 July, 2017.

You can read the original story, here.

Now, more than three years later – with close to 40 stories being published by Express exposing all the relevant details in the intervening period – today, the island’s politicians will discuss the issue. 

Similar cases, such as the one involving Julian Mallinson have emerged. The island’s official Complaints Board has ruled, a former Bailiff (and Receiver General) has opined… and the relevant Minister has ducked, dived, denied, dithered and deflected. 

This story was never just about one man’s fight for justice - although that is where it started.

roche de la mer foreshore alan luce

Pictured: Alan Luce's former home, Roche de Mer - the property at the heart of the Foreshore dispute.

Government officials have privately accepted that more than 400 coastal properties (including ones owned by a very senior politician, a very senior civil servant, and a Parish) may be affected by their new Foreshore policy setting out how they plan to deal with alleged encroachments, such as steps over the sea wall, or a balcony extending too far, or, yes, in some cases, damage to the island’s sea defences. 

But like the tide which continually (re)defines the area known as the ‘Foreshore’, the implications of this issue steadily creep higher and higher, going to the heart of how the government will act as a neighbour towards anyone who owns any property bordering States-owned land - wherever in Jersey that may be. 

It is a story about how the government will treat its own citizens. In Alan Luce, and Julian Mallinson’s cases, they felt bullied – that the money they were forced to pay was “extorted” from them at a vulnerable time.

In their cases, it is exactly like building a relationship of ‘give-and-take’ with a neighbour, accepting that everyone in a small community has to live together and do their best to get along – but then someone new is gifted a property next door, someone with endless money, time and legal expertise… and the inclination to demand substantial compensation wherever they can find opportunity (like the sale of a property) to argue that the letter of a (vague) law might, historically, not have been followed. 

Anyone with even a passing association with transacting property in Jersey will know that boundaries issues can be tricky, tortuous things – and in this case, where the boundary is ‘defined’ by the tide, you quickly begin to understand the Crown’s preference for pragmatism over dogmatism.

kevin-lewis2.jpg

Pictured: Infrastructure Minister, Deputy Kevin Lewis. 

No one is saying the Minister doesn’t have to protect public land, and maintain the island’s essential sea defences – this whole issue has been about how he has discharged that duty. 

Has it been done with understanding, due restraint and cogniscance of the specific circumstances of each case, some of which date back – as Jersey property issues often do – to the limits of accurate records? 

Or does it appear that some officials have seized on the public’s acquisition of the Foreshore as an opportunity rather than a gift?

The Foreshore is no more than a line in the sand - and, today, Jersey’s politicians will make a decision; a decision which will tell us how they want their officials to handle complex, and potentially expensive, cases involving their own citizens. 

Pictured top: Alan Luce, and the property he used to own on the Foreshore.

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