Was ‘closed door’ deal done before field sale?
AN undeveloped agricultural field neighbouring a St Mary quarry has sold for £1.65 million – leading a nearby resident to question whether ‘closed door’ assurances are being given over planning matters.
Field MY966, a 21-vergée parcel of agricultural land in the green zone, was sold last month to Granite Products, which runs the adjacent Gigoulande Quarry at the top of St Peter’s Valley.
The company has confirmed that it bought the field with a view to extending its quarry, despite the fact that no planning permissions are in place on the protected green-zone field.
Environment Minister John Young said that he would order a public inquiry if the company moved to develop the plot and said that he had ‘certainly not’ provided any assurance that a planning application would be successful, if lodged.
Martin Fernando, a property developer and businessman who owns neighbouring land, said that he could not understand why such a high price had been paid for the field.
‘It’s unheard of for a piece of land like that to go for that value without any planning permissions on it,’ he said.
‘It seems like something has been agreed behind closed doors and somebody knows something, otherwise why would the price have been that high?
‘If they decide to extend the quarry into that field it will come right up to the boundaries of my property. We would also lose all the cycle lanes and walking routes there, which are really popular with tourists.
‘I also know that the quarry has been talked about by Jersey Water as a site for a potential new reservoir.’
Field MY966 is bordered by La Rue L’Aleval and La Rue Bechervaise and is currently used by Charlie Gallichan of Woodside Farms to grow carrots, onions and daffodils.
A spokesperson for the Planning Department confirmed that no permissions were in place for the field.
‘There are no recent planning permissions on this land. The land is in agricultural use and part of the green zone,’ they said.
They added that the department ‘is not able to speculate’ on the reasons why the purchaser bought the land for the amount of money it did.
A spokesman for Granite Products confirmed that the company made the purchase to accommodate a potential extension of the quarry.
‘Ensuring ongoing supplies of construction materials for the Island requires long-term planning. This is dealt with in the Island Plan which is updated on a regular basis,’ he said.
‘To ensure that we can play a part in meeting the Island’s need for materials, we recently acquired land adjacent to our St Peter quarry.’
Deputy Young said that he had not been made aware of the purchase or any plans to redevelop the field.
‘If the owner wants to make an application to extend the quarry into that field for mineral extraction then I will order a public inquiry to be held,’ he said.
‘If the field is in the green zone, and has no planning permissions on it, then redevelopment is a breach of policy.
‘If anyone has given Granite Products assurance that if they lodge an application it would be successful, then it certainly was not me.
‘That site has also, of course, been suggested by Jersey Water as a site for a new reservoir.’
He added that Jersey’s strategy for procuring minerals, with construction at high levels, would be a key theme of the Island Plan and solutions could include developing new port facilities for importing products or bringing in ‘modular’ pre-built buildings to meet the Island’s demand for more homes.
Last month, questions were also raised over the sale of Field 563 in St Mary – a four-vergée plot – for £35,000 to Les Vaux Housing Trust, for which Chief Minister John Le Fondré acts as a trustee.
The land, which was bought from an elderly vendor, neighbours Les Vaux’s Jardin de Haut estate and had been discussed as a potential site for rezoning to develop affordable housing, which would cause its value to soar.
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