Deputy John Young said he would be asking for a planning inquiry to take place once the States of Jersey Development Company submit plans for their ‘landscape-led’ transformation of the Waterfront, announced in August.
A consultation for the 12-year project – which could feature outdoor swimming pools, a national art gallery and a landscaped bridge over Route de la Libération – is currently taking place, with plans to submit an outline planning application by the end of September.
However, a local environmental group have raised concerns over the proposals – describing the Waterfront as ‘one gigantic toxic waste dump’ within their recently published ten-year study. SOS Jersey’s report says that the fill across the Waterfront site, and the reclaimed land prior to 1995, is ‘extremely toxic’ and constantly leaching heavy metals into the marine environment. It also says that deadly fibres from asbestos-coated waste ‘can become released to the air’ when the reclaimed areas are excavated.
David Cabeldu, co-ordinator and researcher for SOS Jersey, said they did not think it was safe to develop the Waterfront ‘as densely as intended’.
He added that, based on the information available to them at the time, the group estimated that the volume of contaminated land that would need to be ‘excavated, moved and reburied in sealed pits’ was around 201,000 cubic metres – the volume of roughly 80 Olympic swimming pools.
In the States on Tuesday, Deputy Kirsten Morel asked the Environment Minister whether any assessment had been made of the quantity of building waste that would need to be removed from the site if the JDC’s plans came to fruition – and how much was estimated to be toxic.
Deputy Young said: ‘A lot of the information is just not there and of course the quantities of excavation are not known, and it will be for the applicant to put that information in as part of the outline planning application that they will submit later on this year – and of course it will be subject to a robust waste-management plan and regulatory checks and measures to avoid pollution.’
However, Deputy Morel said: ‘Given that a great deal of the site in question is known to contain toxic materials – and while appreciating it is early days and only a vision at the moment – does the minister not think it is suitable, and indeed preferable, that he has a strategic view of Jersey’s waste demands and particularly toxic waste demands? Is he not questioning why he has not been consulted on this sooner?’
Deputy Young said: ‘As minister who has the planning regulation to deal with, it has not been appropriate for me to be involved with what the SoJDC are preparing. But I am quite clear in my mind – and I state this clearly – that when that application comes I will be asking for a planning inquiry on it because there are lots of implications here.’
He added: ‘The waste management is certainly one aspect to be looked at and of course that was covered in the strategy, and so I think that will be an element of the various matters that will have to be taken into account in any planning decisions on what we do with this very important area – it is going to have big effects on everybody.’