THE Jersey Development Company has launched a fresh bid to have plans for 139 homes at South Hill approved.
The units would be spread over three stepped buildings in the former quarry, with the long-empty former offices of the Planning Department at the site knocked down.
However, the JDC’s proposals have been twice rejected by politicians on the Planning Committee and, this week, the taxpayer-owned organisation appealed against the second refusal to an independent inspector, who will recommend to the Environment Minister if the scheme – which is lower and smaller than the JDC’s first incarnation – should be approved or not.
In support of the appeal, Housing Minister David Warr opened the day-long hearing by announcing that the percentage of the 139 units that would join a shared-equity scheme for first-time buyers would increase from 15% – the minimum set out in legally binding planning policy – to 25%.
This would increase the number of subsidised homes from 21 to 35.
Deputy Warr said: “The South Hill site has been a blot on the landscape since long before the Planning and Infrastructure departments vacated the site some five years ago.
“I believe the JDC have brought forward what is an imaginative and sympathetic proposal that will finally see this site put to good use.”
The Planning Committee cited several reasons for refusing the scheme, including a belief that the project would have an “unacceptable impact on public views through the site”, particularly from the path behind the quarry face”. They also said that the mix of units was not right, and that too many flats at the back of the proposed development were single aspect and too close to the rock face.
Arguing on behalf of the committee on the first point, planning officer Jonathan Durbin said: “The proposal is too large, too dominant, too tall and too intrusive. Views from the Glacis Field, nearby hillside and the top of Mount Bingham would be harmed to an unacceptable level by its scale and mass.”
However, planning consultant John Nicholson, for JDC, argued that the Bridging Island Plan, and official documents supporting it, listed key town vistas that needed to be protected, and the view from Mount Bingham was not one of them.
The Planning Department also argued that the mix of 64 one-bedroom, 69 two-bedroom and six three-bedroom units did not support recognised housing need, but this was contested by JDC chief executive Lee Henry, who said that the 2021 Census and other studies had concluded that the biggest demand was for smaller properties.
One element of the committee’s refusal did fall away when Planning accepted that the updated proposal from the JDC had brought all units within the government’s minimum-space guidelines. These were submitted after the Planning Committee had identified that 18 properties fell below the minimum standard.
Planning inspector David Hainsworth will publish his recommendation in due course, after which Environment Minister Jonathan Renouf will make a final decision.
Last week, the JDC’s plans for the Waterfront were comprehensively rejected by a panel of politicians set up to determine the application.