From Dr Michael Romeril, former Environmental Adviser to the States
AS the person who was the first professional environmentalist employed by the States of Jersey to implement what were, at the time, far-reaching proposals to protect the unique west coast of Jersey, it is not surprising that I would be extremely interested in being a part of the A Line in the Sand event, which, as the publicity states, ‘is intended as a voice for Islanders who care’.
Although now retired and living in the UK, I maintain close links with the Island and visit on a regular basis.
I too share the public unease at the apparent lack of environmental consideration presently emanating from the States.
There is no excuse for this. Indeed, I was surprised that Constable Simon Crowcroft recently had to seek a States mandate to pursue environmental objectives. In 1996, the States of Jersey debated and unanimously approved an Environmental Charter for Jersey.
There was not a single voice of dissent. That was part of Jersey’s response to the Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. Policy number three of the Charter was, and remains, of particular relevance to the event on 4 October. It required the States to develop a strategy for the conservation, improvement and enhancement of the coast and countryside.
In addition, during my later years as Environmental Adviser, the States signed up to several International Directives requiring serious commitment(s) to environmental objectives, with some, such as the RAMSAR Convention, particularly focused on coastal issues. As I understand such States decisions, they are binding to future generations of politicians unless there is a vote to change the original decision. Thus they are as relevant today as when first agreed in the States Chamber. It is why the public expects its politicians to honour these commitments.
While many of today’s States Members may be unaware of these commitments, it is incumbent on them to acquaint themselves with previous States decisions and act in accordance in the consideration of any proposals that have significant environmental consequences. In the particular context of the coast of Jersey, which is a priceless asset both for locals and as a resource to support the long-term ambitions for tourism, the issues of Plémont and the Milano Bars site are a particular focus just now but, in the wider coastal context, provide the States with a golden opportunity to demonstrate a truly real commitment to environmental objectives.
There do seem to be options to find a way around the deadlock of Plémont and it calls for the sort of brave decision from the States that was made when it decided to create Les Mielles all those years ago in 1978. Do it again! The reopening of the Milano Bars debate is a sad reflection of the lack of States resolve to solve for once and for all this part of the Les Mielles history. There can be no argument that that stretch of coastline is so much the better for the lack of a building. To even consider a new structure there would be to renege on the whole principle of Les Mielles.
In my early days as Conservation Officer I often pointed out that Jersey’s environmental mistakes were usually the result of many small changes adding up to an effect out of proportion to the small incremental changes that were not easy to appreciate at the time. That lesson seems as apposite now as in the 1980s. There must be a States resolve to ‘draw a line in the sand’ and give Jersey’s coastline the respect and protection it deserves.