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Our own wild west

ecoJersey | Published:

Published in their own fine journal, Discover, and still as timely, National Trust for Jersey’s CEO Charles Alluto gives readers another view.

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At the very heart of Jersey’s fledgling National Park lies the windswept and wildly beautiful landscape of St Ouen’s Bay.

Having been threatened with post-war housing development and the ignominy of refuse dumping, the bay has miraculously survived intact and remained largely unscathed, despite some inappropriate development. Indeed it has benefited enormously from the pioneering restoration and conservation work of the Environment Department in the 1980s, as well as the campaigning efforts of our own organisation.

Time after time, the unique qualities of St Ouen’s Bay have been recognised and special planning policies adopted to afford it additional protection. This started with the St Ouen’s Bay Development Plan of 1968, which was closely followed by the bay’s recognition as a ‘special place’ in 1978, and then its very own planning framework which was spearheaded by the Les Mielles Sub- Committee in 1999.

After that, it transformed into a Zone of Outstanding Character in 2002, before finally becoming part of the National Park. All of these plans have secured wins and losses to varying degrees, but the single failure that is common to all is that none have managed to deliver an integrated management plan for the bay.

Over 50 years have elapsed and the management plan remains as elusive as ever. As a result, our coastal strip continues to be degraded, piecemeal development continues without any holistic vision or design framework, interpretation and signage are fragmented and, on occasion, unsightly, mineral extraction continues and parking policies are so inconsistent that there is a real risk that our coastal landscape enjoyed by so many could suffer from the actions of so few.

No one can deny that St Ouen’s Bay is special. It is the largest open coastal space in our Island and has an unsurpassable richness of ecology, archaeology, and recreational opportunities and, above all, natural beauty. An integrated management plan is absolutely crucial to its future and our States Assembly needs to carefully consider why Jersey’s government has been able to repeatedly adopt a recommendation over a 50-year period, but still not deliver the necessary outcome.

St Ouen’s Bay is an asset for our Island on so many levels, but it requires investment, care and appropriate management. The time has surely come for the States of Jersey to deliver on its promise and provide a shared vision which celebrates and protects the natural wilderness that pervades our west coast.

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