Minister told to ‘wake up to his public duties and do right thing’

THE Infrastructure Minister should ‘wake up to his public duties and do what is right’, a States Deputy has said as the debate on the controversial foreshore encroachment policy was postponed until next month.

Deputy Carolyn Labey. Picture: ROB CURRIE. (30038511)
Deputy Carolyn Labey. Picture: ROB CURRIE. (30038511)

Grouville Deputy Carolyn Labey said that the further delay was unfair to affected property owners who were currently prevented from selling land until the States had debated the minister’s new policy on encroachments.

‘The minister should now take his policy off the table and replace it with an open, transparent and clear one that can be understood by the public and is not left to the interpretation of his officers. It is not fair to have this ambiguous approach,’ she said.

The minister’s latest policy, which critics have branded as essentially identical to the previous version, was due to be debated in the States tomorrow, along with an amendment containing an alternative approach devised by Deputy Labey who has taken up the case on behalf of dissatisfied Islanders.

But, following Thursday’s publication of a Scrutiny report which criticised the minister’s policy, the matter has now been deferred until 9 February.

Infrastructure Minister Kevin Lewis declined to comment on either the findings of the Scrutiny report, or on whether its conclusions would lead him to withdraw his policy, which is based on an approach that has also been criticised by the Jersey Law Society, the States Complaints Board and a number of private individuals.

Those opinions were summarised by the chairman of the Environment, Housing and Infrastructure Panel, Constable Mike Jackson, as constituting ‘a unanimous view amongst those who have contributed to the [Scrutiny] review that it is an unfair and discriminatory approach’.

Deputy Labey expressed disappointment that her ministerial colleague, Deputy Lewis, had not responded to the growing dissatisfaction about the way Jersey Property Holdings had dealt with the land which the Island received as a gift from the Queen in 2015.

‘Surely the penny has got to drop that the approach he is adopting is not the right one. Here we are, three years after I first tried to get him to consider it when he first took office, and we haven’t advanced the situation one bit,’ she said.

Meanwhile, Scrutiny’s findings have been welcomed by the two Islanders – Alan Luce and Jeremy Mallinson – whose grievances against Jersey Property Holdings were upheld by a States complaints board .

‘I am so pleased that the crux of the matter, the boundary demarcation and ownership, have been investigated fully and transparency now recommended by this review,’ Mr Luce said, adding that ‘this shameful pursuit really needs a closure’.

His comments were echoed by Mr Mallinson who said that he could not understand why the minister’s department had not taken on board a succession of similar criticisms. ‘I have not found anyone who supports the department’s view,’ he said.

He said that the ‘very simple and logical’ solution was to recognise that there should be an amnesty for those who had encroached on the foreshore while it was owned by the Crown and to make any policy of charging effective from the time that ownership transferred to the States.

‘I don’t think anyone would complain about that,’ Mr Mallinson said.

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