Foreshore: ‘Three extra staff would be needed to tackle backlog of cases’

THREE additional full-time members of staff would be required in order to deal simultaneously with the backlog of cases involving landowners affected by the foreshore-encroachment controversy, the Infrastructure Minister has claimed.

Houses overlooking the beach with steps to the shore at the eastern end of La Mare beach. Picture: JON GUEGAN. (31895287)
Houses overlooking the beach with steps to the shore at the eastern end of La Mare beach. Picture: JON GUEGAN. (31895287)

In a response to recommendations made by the Environment, Housing and Infrastructure Scrutiny Panel, Deputy Kevin Lewis said that while he accepted the principle that the encroachment policy should be applied fairly to all – and not just when owners tried to sell their property – neither his department nor the Law Officers’ Department was sufficiently well resourced to resolve all foreshore encroachments at once.

‘Jersey Property Holdings considers that it requires two additional full-time officers dedicated to the task, or equivalent consultancy resource. I understand that the Law Officers’ Department will also need at least one full-time conveyancer,’ the minister said.

And Deputy Lewis has declined to review his department’s approach to Islanders whose property encroached on the foreshore when the land was previously owned by the Crown.

‘Ownership of the foreshore and the seabed brings with it all the rights and all the responsibilities of ownership. That responsibility includes how best to protect the public’s interest in the foreshore as a valuable amenity for the benefit and enjoyment of all. No individual member of the public has any form of personal ownership interest in the land, which is owned by the public,’ the minister said.

Deputy Lewis said that the public of the Island had been ‘in uninterrupted possession of the foreshore for over 70 years since 1950 by virtue of leases of the foreshore from the Crown’ and said that the policy of seeking recompense from those encroaching on public land was not a new one. He attached to his response a list of settlements made for encroachments prior to the Queen’s gift of the foreshore in 2015.

But he said that he accepted the recommendation to include a sliding scale of payments and said that the latest percentage reductions which he had introduced into the policy were more favourable to third parties.

The minister’s formal response to the Scrutiny panel recommendations follows the adoption by the States in March this year of a revised policy to deal with encroachments after objections were raised to the levying of charges on landowners whose encroachments were said to have been tolerated by the Crown when it previously owned the land.

Deputy Lewis supported the majority of the panel’s recommendations, including the development of a protocol with the Environment Minister that would formalise the approach to future planning applications affecting the foreshore.

‘I am firmly of the view that a preventative approach is sensible. Where there is an application for planning permission for development that falls within an area of responsibility or of concern to me, or may affect the boundary of the foreshore, it should be referred to me for comment,’ he said.

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