Earlier this year the States Complaints Board heavily criticised the government after ruling that the States had ‘exploited’ Alan Luce and Julian Mallinson while they were trying to sell their homes at Grève d’Azette in St Clement.
The former Infrastructure Minister, Eddie Noel, and Jersey Property Holdings made claims against both men for encroachments on the foreshore – the area of land between the shoreline and the low water mark which was gifted to the public of Jersey by the Crown in 2015.
During the dispute Mr Noel said the land was ultimately owned by the public, which had a right to be compensated. Mr Luce was forced to pay valuation fees as well as compensation to the States totalling almost £35,000, while Mr Mallinson paid £25,000.
Both Islanders then lodged complaints with the States Complaints Board, which found that the minister and department had acted ‘against the principles of natural justice’ and called for the two men to be partially reimbursed for the money they had paid out.
The board said that the States had exploited the ‘vulnerable position’ Mr Luce and Mr Mallinson found themselves in while trying to sell their properties and had not acted ‘fairly, promptly and transparently’ in its dealings.
The new Infrastructure Minister Kevin Lewis’ response to the board’s findings says, however, that he does not accept these findings.
‘While the minister does not seek to question that each complainant may have been financially distressed, the minister does not accept that either transacting party was vulnerable,’ it says.
It adds that he believes his officers dealt with both matters in an ‘appropriate timescale’. The minister also rejects the board’s recommendation that Mr Luce and Mr Mallinson should be partially reimbursed.
In response, Geoffrey Crill, the chairman of the board, said that he believed the minister’s response suggested that all property owned by the public should be dealt with on the same basis.
‘That is clearly nonsense. Some property may be held for entirely commercial purposes, some for the provision of public services and some for more esoteric public benefit, like monuments and sites of special interest,’ he said.
‘The board does not consider it to have been appropriate that JPH approached negotiations on an exclusively commercial basis.’
He added that the board is ‘very surprised’ that the minister believes that 16 months was an appropriate length of time for negotiating with the complainants.
‘Whether it was due to workloads or commercial transactions being given priority, we feel that the negotiations in these cases were unnecessarily protracted and resulted in a great deal of stress to the complainants,’ he said.
Mr Crill said that the board hopes that once a ‘clear policy’ for fixing the boundary of the foreshore and seeking compensation for encroachments is adopted, the minister will reconsider refunding Mr Luce and Mr Mallinson.