Full cost to taxpayers of Les Sablons rejection will not be revealed

Brian McCarthy at the Les Sablons site entrance Commercial Street Picture: DAVID FERGUSON. (37756529)

THE full cost to taxpayers from an assistant minister’s decision to block a £120 million development in St Helier last year is to remain a secret due to a confidential legal agreement, it has emerged.

Developers Le Masurier had sought permission to regenerate two acres of town into 238 apartments, a 103-room aparthotel, restaurants, shops and a walkway linking Broad Street and Commercial Street.

After the development, known as Les Sablons, was refused, Le Masurier lodged an appeal and an independent planning expert ruled that the development should go ahead.

But the then Assistant Environment Minister Hilary Jeune rejected it in a move that resulted in then-Chief Minister Kristina Moore saying she was “extremely disappointed” in the decision.

When Le Masurier then launched a further fight via the Royal Court, it was later confirmed that, following legal advice, Deputy Jeune would not be fighting the appeal and that she had accepted the decision was “unlawful”. The then-Infrastructure Minister Tom Binet later gave the go-ahead to the development.

It was confirmed at the time that taxpayers would have to foot the bill for the developer’s legal costs.

At the time, Le Masurier managing director Brian McCarthy estimated the government’s legal costs would be in the “tens of thousands”.

It has now emerged that the exact amount of money spent in relation to the planning row will not be disclosed.

Following States questions from Deputy Max Andrews, Environment Minister Steve Luce – who was not in place at the time of the row – confirmed that “costs associated with the Judicial Review of the Assistant Minister’s decision to refuse planning permission is subject to a confidential legal agreement” between government and Le Masurier.

As a result, they will “not be publicly disclosed”.

He also said it would not be possible to fully quantify the cost to the government of processing Le Masurier’s planning applications.

“The costs of all planning applications and appeals are covered by existing annual revenue budget and are not broken down into individual applications. Specific costs (officer time for instance) cannot be quantified,” Deputy Luce said.

He did, however, add that the application was “subject to a significant application fee”, and also revealed that the government had incurred an “additional cost of £3,500 to obtain advice from an independent consultant regarding economic viability”.

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