Bob Beslievre, of Sea View Investments, obtained permission in 2018 to build six two-bedroom and four three-bedroom apartments with parking near Keppel Tower, in Grouville. This followed around eight years of planning hearings and legal challenges against larger proposals by nearby residents.
Work began last year, after which Grouville Deputy Carolyn Labey complained that the project was not being carried out in accordance with the approved specifications.
A notice issued by the Planning Department says a basement on the site is too large. It adds that the company was offered the chance to apply for retrospective permission for the work but declined to do so.
The applicant has been ordered to ‘block off’ the additional space by building a wall and filling in the resulting void.
‘The unauthorised works amount to development, for which planning consent has not been granted,’ the notice says. ‘[The] applications both sought consent to extend the footprint of the basement in line with the substructure that has already been partially implemented on site. Both applications have been subject to a full assessment and were subsequently refused by the Environment Minister.
‘The developer and agent for the scheme have been notified of the breach of development controls in writing. The department offered an opportunity to apply for consent for the below-ground works subject to this notice; however, this was declined.
‘As a result of this, the department considers that it is necessary to ensure that the area in question is suitably blocked off from the approved basement and retained as such in perpetuity.’
Mary Herold, a nearby resident, was one of those who opposed previous larger-scale plans for the site – taking then Environment Minister Rob Duhamel to court and successfully getting two approvals overturned by the Royal Court.
Her grandson, Greg Howe-Herold, speaking on her behalf, said he would be monitoring construction to ensure it went ahead within the approved parameters. He added that his grandmother, who still lived near the development, found the latest twist in the saga ‘distressing’.
‘Back in 2018, when the project was finally approved, it was a bit of a compromise and packaged to mitigate the impact that the development would have on the area to a certain extent, with ten apartments rather than 18,’ he said. ‘There was a degree of relief that we would finally have some closure and finality. But then the developer brought a revised application to tweak the plans, to the frustration of everyone living there.
‘And here we are, yet again, in 2021 with a whole different element to the project which is not in keeping with the approved application. She finds it very frustrating and distressing.’
Responding to the notice, Mr Beslievre said: ‘This is a complex site, with a great deal of history and associated interest. Our work and that of our expert team has been painstaking at every stage in the past ten years that we have been involved with the site.
‘We have taken the time and paid proper deference to all archaeological and historical aspects on the site both prior to and during the excavation. It is, however, normal, in the course of any building project, for small changes to be made during design development.’
He added that two further applications were made for amendments to two of the buildings, which were refused. However, he said that a planning inspector’s review in 2020 suggested that one of the proposed amendments should be allowed.
‘All of this was happening at the same time as the global pandemic struck us all so unexpectedly – and which consequently impacted the timing of the final ministerial decision,’ he said. ‘ This did not come until February this year, substantially after the Independent Planning Inspectors recommendation to approve, but which rejected that recommendation.
‘Therefore, during the whole of last year, like so many others businesses, we proceeded as best as possible to keep work going. The preparations on site, which included the basement below-ground structure, were designed with the intention of being able to accommodate either scheme (approved or appealed) dependent upon the ministerial decision. It has never been our intention to build anything other than a planning-approved scheme and so the foundations were constructed to accommodate either option. The order allows the foundations and basement structure to be progressed as intended, albeit infilled, as opposed to being left as a disused void. We are highly experienced, dedicated to the provision of homes for Islanders and have always maintained good working relationships with the Planning Department. As we live directly next door to the site, there is no greater impact than on our home. We are pleased that we may finally be able to progress with the intended development and restore this historical building to its former splendour and provide much-needed accommodation.’