THE government’s development company has been sent back to the drawing board over its plans to transform a large area of the Waterfront.
Its proposal to build nearly 1,000 homes and £150 million worth of facilities for the public – including a new swimming pool, cinema, outdoor lido and slipway at West Park – on 30 acres of reclaimed land was comprehensively rejected by a panel of three politicians o Wednesday.
Jersey Development Company had been seeking outline permission for a 12-year phased scheme that would transform public land which currently includes the cinema, AquaSplash, Fitness First, the car parks on either side of Route de la Libération, Jardins de la Mer and the West Park seafront.
The application had been subject to a week-long planning inquiry in May before independent inspector Philip Staddon.
His report recommended to the Determination Panel – Environment Minister Jonathan Renouf, Assistant Environment Minister Hilary Jeune and Planning Committee chair Philip Le Sueur – that it should not be accepted in its current form.
They unanimously agreed, but went even further than the inspector.
Mr Staddon had recommended that the application should remain open to allow the JDC to make adjustments, leading to a second ‘mini planning inquiry’.
However, this suggestion was rejected by the panel, which concluded that there were too many areas of the application which required significant change and therefore a new application should be submitted.
The decision puts the government’s target to deliver up to 4,300 new homes – including over 1,650 affordable units – by the end of 2025 under threat, although that aim was already in jeopardy due to the need for essential upgrades to the sewerage network.
The reasons for refusal were many. The panel, for instance, concluded that the plans would have failed to achieve the expectation that the development would ‘reconnect’ the Waterfront with the rest of St Helier.
The scheme did not include sinking any roads or building bridges, instead proposing maintaining Route de la Libération but creating a single raised crossing and planting trees down the middle. The panel concluded that ‘the application provides insufficient improvements to Route de la Libération, leaving a largely untamed highway that separates the Waterfront from the rest of town’.
The panel also found that the application did not demonstrate how it would achieve ‘good-quality housing and living conditions’.
They concluded that most of the proposed flats were likely to be single aspect, many would be facing a noisy road, and some would have poor aspects due to facing tall buildings at close proximity.
The large amount of contaminated spoil that the development would generate to create basement parking was also a ground for refusal.
This was also a key reason why the Planning Department had recommended the application be rejected in a submission made to the independent inspector in the run-up to the public inquiry.
In May, the department had said that it could not support the application due to the proposals to dig out 113,000 cubic metres of waste containing ash and metals to create underground parking and service space because the Island had nowhere to put the toxic spoil.
The panel agreed, even though, since then, the States Assembly has backed a plan to increase the size of mounds of hazardous waste at La Collette, where the deposits would be taken. However, only the existing mounds currently have planning permission.
Another key reason for refusal was the proposed level of affordable housing, which the panel said represented ‘a low level of provision’.
The JDC was obliged to provide an assisted-purchase scheme for 15% of the units – or around 150 homes – despite previous backbench attempts to increase that to up to 50%. The JDC has previously argued that increasing the 15% threshold would threaten the financial viability of the scheme.
In response to the rejection, the organisation issued a statement, saying: ‘Jersey Development Company is obviously disappointed to receive a Planning refusal to its outline application for the South-west St Helier Waterfront.
‘The planning application was submitted following planning guidance from the planning department and substantial engagement with the public.
‘JDC will await receipt of the inspector’s report and the decision notice of the minister’s panel, then review and consider our next steps.’