After waiting a thousand years for the town Park development to transform the old car park into the set from Teletubbies and watching the Odeon become the finest example of windowless alternative religious worship, we had high hopes for the Le Masurier development.

Unfortunately for the building industry, everyone that walks down Bath St to town and everyone even remotely economically aware it now turns out that the adjacent buildings we were hoping would enhance the north of St Helier through the development will now remain shoddy and unkempt for the foreseeable.

Who would want trees eh? when there are parked cars on the pavement there now….

That’s right folks, we’re going to lose the £75 million of private investment that would have transformed the area after the States have failed to agree a development brief with Le Masurier. The local company have announced regrettably that they no longer have confidence in the States of Jersey Planning Department and have therefore had to withdraw plans for ‘Parkside Village’ on Bath Street. Having dealt with the planning department over previous years and had to resubmit plans altered by less than 1mm and pay to have ‘certified’ photocopies at the going rate, we feel for them.

The decision has not been made lightly by the Jersey owned company. Plans for Parkside Village included homes and amenities for all generations and family sizes as well as much needed affordable homes, a new pedestrian link to the Town Park, short-stay shoppers car parking, shops and cafes and was expected to deliver a considerable boost to the Island economy. But the planning department are obviously keen to retain the character of the area ‘as is’. The regulars at Africa House will obviously be delighted…

Over the last year, having been invited to do so by Planning, Le Masurier have been working towards agreeing a development brief, also known as ‘Supplementary Planning Guidance’ (SPG) A ‘draft’ brief was agreed with the Planning Minister and Officers in July and put out to public consultation (Dept. Of the Environment consultation paper, 16/7/12). The response from the public was very positive, including strong support from the Parish of St Helier and the Chamber of Commerce. We had to jump through similar hoops a few years to try and organise a party in Trinity. Everyone in the area supported the event but the powers that be pulled rank as they didn’t fancy it. Sometimes what the public think just doesn’t matter.

Following the positive consultation Le Masurier expected determination of the brief, enabling them to move forward with the submission of a planning application. Instead, Planning Officers recently delivered a re-written brief with wholesale changes (1st November 2012).

Brian McCarthy, Managing Director, C Le Masurier Limited, explains;

‘It is with deep felt regret, that we have no option but to down tools on our Parkside Village project. We have spent the best part of a year simply trying to agree a development brief for our site. We thought we had achieved this in July but now we have been presented by Planning with unacceptable wholesale changes, the alterations have made our proposals totally unviable. This is despite the fact that our proposals sit comfortably within the States approved North of Town Masterplan and the Island Plan. We have experienced nothing but constant delays, U-turns, and a lack of cohesive decision making from the Planning Department. It is impossible to make sensible progress and we cannot risk spending millions of pounds on a planning application, without the certainty of due process and the Department’s commitment to a transparent service.

Sadly, I believe that we are not alone in our frustration in dealing with the Islands bureaucracy. I believe that it is a widespread feeling shared by other Jersey businesses, many of whom would clearly value, and would have benefitted from, our proposed private investment’.

Ben Ludlam, Group Property Director, C Le Masurier Limited, says;

‘This is a really sad day for Le Masurier and for Jersey. We are a long established Jersey family company, fully committed to the Island and are willing investors despite the dreadful economic climate. Our proposals would have provided much needed regeneration and vital work for the Island’s construction industry. This has not been an easy decision for us but we will now focus solely on our J1 development in Broad Street, and our substantial investment plans will have to take place outside of the Island’.

So… if you live in the area or spend time on Bath St, spend time tomorrow relishing the architectural goodness around you. If you’re unemployed and work in the building industry, why not spend some of your unemployment benefit on a few beers in Africa House and help them celebrate. Cheers!