The destruction of the rain forests, the rape of Alberta by the oil industry, the turf cutters of Ireland destroying age-old bog. All over the world there are issues concerning land and its treatment and usage.
And here in Jersey we have our own issues in micro form. The problem is we have 45 square miles (118.2 square kms), no more. Once the land is built on, that’s it. There has therefore been a constant battle, more especially in modern times, to seek to protect what open spaces remain whilst protecting property owners’ rights.
Plemont, on the north-western cliffs, is the latest battleground. Putting to one side its beautiful beach and caves, controversy rages on the high land above. In the days where there were no planning controls a holiday camp was built there. The Germans used it for their troops during the Occupation years. Then Fred Pontin bought the site and rebuilt the holiday village on the same footstep. The advent of cheap air travel mortally wounded the cheap end of Jersey’s tourist industry and the village was closed in 2000 on Fred’s death and his company sold to developer Trevor Hemmings.
To bring the story up to date, Mr Hemmings now has planning permission for a luxury development of 28 houses on the site. Battle lines have been drawn. Many are relieved that the eyesore of the old derelict village will be dealt with at last. Others are strongly behind the idea that the States of Jersey ought to buy Mr Hemmings out and have the site restored to nature. The cost is, as yet, unknown but £10m – £12m seems to be where the bargain would be struck.
Unusually there are good and cogent arguments on both sides, together with the usual and manifold squawks from those that can see only one side to an issue. Here is a guide to the arguments on both sides.
In favour of the development
- It will allow demolition of the rat-infested ruins and will tidy up the area.
- Mr Hemmings promises 2/3 of the land will, in any case, be released for public enjoyment.
- It is Mr Hemming’s land to do as he wants with, within the limits of the planning laws.
- No taxpayers’ money wasted, especially in these hard times. We can’t afford £10 – £12m.
- Valuable addition to the housing stock.
- ‘Return to nature’ will just mean another bunch of gorse and heather, no different from the rest of the north coast.
Against the development
- It is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to rescue this beauty spot and preserve it for future generations.
- The 28 houses are one thing. With them will come the trappings of luxury – swimming pools, multiple cars etc. Access/egress through the tiny lanes will be a major issue.
- The 2/3 land gift is a cod. It will surround or be hemmed in by the new development and can’t be regarded as natural and wild.
- The cost is nothing when examined objectively. Jersey’s GVA (Gross Value Added) in 2010 was £3.5 billion, its GNI (Gross National Income) £4 billion. Amortised over, say, 100 years the £10m asking price = just £10,000 per annum.
- Land speculators have no right to expect super profits.
- Development of this land would set a precedent for the future. It has happened too many times already – look at Portelet.
My mind is firmly made up. What do non-Jersey readers think?