Scrutiny finds revised Foreshore Encroachment Policy to be fundamentally flawed
14th January 2021
A detailed review of the Revised Foreshore Encroachment Policy, published today by Scrutiny’s Environment, Housing and Infrastructure Panel, has concluded that the revised policy is fundamentally flawed and lacking in essential detail. The review was launched to ensure that the revised policy, lodged by the Minister for Infrastructure, Deputy Kevin Lewis, in September 2020, addresses the numerous emerging issues regarding the current Foreshore Encroachment Policy. The Panel focused its review on the following areas:
The history of the ownership of the foreshore
The definition and establishment of the foreshore boundary
The impact of current encroachments on Jersey’s sea defences
The approach taken in seeking compensation payments
Whether the revised policy is fair, proportionate and fit for purpose
The Panel found there to be sustained uncertainty over the foreshore boundary, as well as the land defined as ‘publicly owned foreshore land’. As the boundary line is crucial for understanding whether an encroachment of the foreshore had occurred, or would occur in the future, it is the Panel’s view that this continued uncertainty is particularly concerning.
Whilst work has been undertaken to establish a Master Schedule of encroachments, the Panel has found that it would not be publicly accessible. In addition to this, the public have not been provided with a map that demonstrates the boundary line, or justification as to how it has been determined. The Panel has recommended that, in the interests of greater transparency, the Minister for Infrastructure should further consider the boundary line of the foreshore, and that the means for determining the boundary should be publicly accessible.
The Panel agrees that the Minister for Infrastructure should be able to defend and maintain Jersey’s sea defences, without them being placed at risk. However, the Panel found insufficient evidence to suggest that encroachments along the foreshore have significantly affected the Minister’s ability to defend and maintain the sea defences to date. The Panel has recommended that the Minister for Infrastructure should consider a separate Sea Defences Maintenance Policy, in addition to how Planning Obligation Agreements might satisfactorily be utilised going forward to ensure adequate upkeep and maintenance of seawalls where encroachments are concerned.
Another finding of particular concern to the Panel is that neither the current or revised policy provides a suitable complaints or appeals mechanism. This makes it difficult for individuals to appeal a decision made by the Minister in regards to foreshore encroachment compensation. The Panel has recommended that the Minister for Infrastructure should seek to incorporate a suitable and workable process for dealing with complaints within the revised policy.
It is the Panel’s view that any process considered for seeking compensation should be fair and non-discriminatory. The Panel has found that a ‘trigger’ approach is utilised in the current policy, which identifies encroachments when either the property is transacted, planning permission is sought, or a direct approach is made to Jersey Property Holdings by a property owner. The Panel has recommended that the Minister for Infrastructure should seek to apply the policy in a fair and non-discriminatory manner, and not just when a trigger event occurs. Additionally, the compensation that is sought or paid, should be reflective of the encroachment and limitations agreed.
During the review, the Panel received evidence to support an overwhelming and unanimous view that the revised policy remains an unfair approach that is complicated, unclear and lacks transparency. It is the Panel’s view that in the absence of a fairer and clearer approach, it would be likely that an adverse impact may be felt by individuals who own property along the foreshore, both in monetary and personal terms.
Constable Mike Jackson, Chair of the Environment, Housing and Infrastructure Panel said: “The Panel does not question the necessity for a clear and transparent policy for dealing with encroachments along the foreshore, however, the evidence gathered during our review concludes that the revised policy being proposed by the Minister for Infrastructure’s is not clear or transparent. There is a unanimous view shared amongst those who contributed to the review that it is an unfair and discriminatory approach. As it stands, there are essential elements omitted from the proposed revised policy and, as a Panel, we urge the Minister to reflect on our findings and recommendations and bring forward a revised policy which reflects a more clear and fair approach”.
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