COMPENSATION payments to Islanders who were fined tens of thousands of pounds after coastal properties they owned were deemed to have encroached on the foreshore are in limbo following a ministerial reshuffle.
Former Infrastructure Minister Tom Binet said he had signed off on payments totalling more than £50,000 for two homeowners who had to pay substantial fines following a dispute over historical building on the coastal land.
Over the years, a number of properties encroached onto the foreshore, which was previously owned by the Crown, as homeowners built over or on the sea wall or fitted ladders onto the beach.
However, when the foreshore was gifted to the public in 2015, the government pursued the homeowners with encroachment fines.
Two residents, Alan Luce and Julian Mallinson, lodged a complaint in 2016 after being forced to pay more than £50,000 in compensation between them when selling their properties at Grève d’Azette.
At the time of the complaints, Deputy Binet – who was not then a politician – said the government should reimburse those affected, after the States Complaints Board panel found that the actions of the Infrastructure Department and Jersey Property Holdings were “unjust, oppressive and improperly discriminatory”.
Years later, during his time as Infrastructure Minister, Deputy Binet asked Deputy Sir Philip Bailhache to produce a report on the foreshore issue.
In his report, Deputy Bailhache recommended that “ex gratia” payments should be made to Mr Mallinson and Mr Luce, and that a “fair solution” would be to apply a compound interest rate to the sums each homeowner had to pay years ago – with the adjusted figures totalling £32,114 and £42,293 respectively.
Deputy Binet told the JEP he had then sought to implement the recommendation against the advice of a government officer, who said the repayments should not include interest.
“When you are appointed as a minister you are there to make decisions. You can listen to an officer’s advice and recommendations but not follow it slavishly,” Deputy Binet explained.
However, Deputy Steve Ahier, who briefly served as an interim Infrastructure Minister after Deputy Binet resigned to lodge his recent no-confidence motion against Deputy Kristina Moore, instructed Jersey Property Holdings to stop the payments until a new minister was chosen and could consider them.
He added that he was not consulted on the decision, which Deputy Binet made shortly before he resigned – adding that he felt it seemed “inappropriate” and “a bit rash”.
St John Constable Andy Jehan, who has since taken over the ministerial portfolio, said the foreshore issue was “not an area I’ve been able to look at yet”.
Deputy Binet also said he did not feel he was conflicted when he had made the decision – despite his previous comments on the matter before he was a politician – arguing that “something is either wrong or it isn’t”.
He added: “The complaints board ruled in their favour but nobody did anything,” he said.