Foreshore dispute could reach the Queen

A MAN who claims that the government’s foreshore encroachment policy has cost him almost £250,000 is considering petitioning the Queen over his treatment by the government.

Alan Luce. Picture: DAVID FERGUSON. (31326450)
Alan Luce. Picture: DAVID FERGUSON. (31326450)

Alan Luce, one of two Islanders whose case prompted the States to rethink the government’s foreshore policy earlier this year, said it was ‘a disgrace’ that no attempt had been made to put right the wrongs the government had perpetrated against him.

Mr Luce and another property owner successfully appealed to a States complaints board in 2018 after they were forced to pay compensation for building encroachments onto the beach which had been tolerated by the Crown when it previously owned the land.

He said that since it appeared his efforts to resolve the matter locally had failed, he was now seeking advice from an English lawyer about remedies that might exist for him outside the Island.

‘I am talking to a lawyer about options that may include petitioning the Crown, or taking a discrimination action in the European courts as I will have to fight the establishment in Jersey,’ Mr Luce said.

He added: ‘The issue really is one of morality, and to be seen to act fairly and justly. They have been told they have not acted so and yet they have not put it right and have neither sought closure or addressed the questions levied at them in the media. If they are strong and believe in their stance, why not publicly refute my comments?’

Mr Luce and a second property owner, Julian Mallinson, successfully appealed to a States complaints board in 2018 after they were forced to pay compensation for encroachments onto the beach which had been tolerated by the Crown when it previously owned the land. They were approached for payment by Jersey Property Holdings at the point they tried to sell their properties in 2015, something the complaints board described as ‘exploit[ing] the vulnerable position that the complainants found themselves in as owners urgently needing to sell their respective properties’.

Although the policy caused a storm of protest, the injustice of the approach was only acknowledged by the States in March this year.

On that occasion, they accepted amendments brought by Grouville Deputy Carolyn Labey to the Infrastructure Minister’s policy which allowed for minor encroachments, or those not causing interference, which date from the time the Crown owned the land to remain under reasonable conditions agreed with the minister.

Mr Luce believes that the decision to allow encroachments accepted by the Crown to remain has now opened the door for the government to compensate those penalised under the previous policy.

It is a view that is shared by former Bailiff Sir Philip Bailhache who had previously accused the government of ‘extorting money’ from Islanders and failing to respect the spirit of the Crown’s gift of the foreshore.

‘Of course, every case needs to be looked at on its own merits but I am quite sure that the States’ decision to adopt a completely different policy raises for consideration the issue of compensation for those adversely affected by the old policy,’ Sir Philip said.

He added that he believed that the government had a strong moral obligation but he declined to comment on whether it might also be a legal obligation.

Asked about the extent of his own losses, Mr Luce said that he was prepared now to set out amounts which he had disclosed confidentially to the Environment, Housing and Infrastructure Scrutiny Panel in a submission he had made to them last year.

In addition to the payment of £28,000 he made to the government and professional fees of £12,500, he says he lost rental of £14,500 from a tenant and made mortgage payments of £16,970 which he would not have faced had the sale of his property not been delayed.

However, the most substantial item is what Mr Luce says is a loss of £134,000 on the sale value of his property as a result of negotiations stalled by the dispute.

The JEP approached the government press office to ask whether the government intended to compensate those affected by the change in policy but it had received no response at the time of publication.

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