MONDAY 28 SEPTEMBER 2020 JERSEY EVENING POST
23rd September 2020
Further to the recent letter in the Jersey Evening Post from the managing director of Simon Sand & Gravel Limited, The National Trust for Jersey felt it would be beneficial to clarify its position and ongoing concerns regarding the sand quarry in St Ouen’s Bay. Above all the Trust considers that it has a legitimate interest in the future of the quarry given that it lies in the heart of the National Park and the Trust has been actively campaigning for the preservation and sustainable management of St Ouen’s Bay, since its own inception in 1936. Whilst the bay’s special qualities of natural beauty and sense of wilderness were officially recognised in 1968, a robust long-term management plan continues to remain frustratingly elusive. In the absence of such a policy the National Trust has repeatedly sought clarification and reassurance regarding the after care and restoration of the quarry, but has continually faced prevarication, non-compliance, lack of enforcement, lack of transparency, expediency and feigned bluster. As parties now seek to extract yet further value from the quarry by having discussions behind closed doors on landfill, the Trust wholeheartedly hopes that its members and supporters will agree that it is right to seek due process and transparency, particularly in light of the following details:
(a) The Trust’s role as a key stakeholder in St Ouen’s Bay was recognised by the Simon family in 1982 when they appointed the Trust as one of three trustees of the Sand Levy Trust which was established to help facilitate the restoration of the quarry. This emanated from the Island Development Committee’s concern for the “proper restoration” of the quarry following the issuing of a permit for sand extraction in April 1977.
(b) In 1999 the States commissioned Arup Consultants to prepare a Mineral Strategy, which recommended the winding down of the Simon Sand Quarry due to the sensitive ecological nature of the site. The consultants actively liaised with Simon Sand & Gravel Limited, as opposed to the National Trust, and recommended in the final report that following discussions with the company “that their preferred future extraction strategy was to have a planned winding down of sand extraction over a 15 year period…if approved the company would co-operate with the planning authorities in securing an acceptable restoration programme”.
(c) In 2003 an application was submitted for a further 15 year extraction licence and the National Trust together with the Société Jersiaise, Durrell Wildlife, Friends of Les Mielles and Jersey Heritage Trust objected to the application upon the grounds that it was contrary to Island Plan policy including the Countryside Character Appraisal and St Ouen’s Bay Planning Framework. It was emphasised that further extraction would have an irreversible and detrimental impact upon wildlife, landscape and archaeology. However, if planning consent was granted all 5 organisations recommended that a planning obligation agreement be put in place as opposed to planning conditions so as to ensure a long term restoration plan was put in place which was legally binding. This was in line with Article 8(a) of the Island Planning Law 1964 and was common practice in the UK for mineral extraction sites.
(d) In 2004 consent was granted for a further 15 years extraction subject to a number of conditions, (as opposed to a planning obligation agreement), including a restoration strategy and aftercare strategy to be provided to the Environment Department by 10th September 2014. Some six years have now passed and Simon Sand & Gravel Limited has failed to comply with these conditions and the Environment Department has failed to enforce them to date.
(e) In 2017 the Trust raised concerns with both the Environment Minister (Steve Luce) and the Infrastructure Minister (Eddie Noel) that no importation facilities appeared to have been put in place as per Policy MR7 of the Island Plan 2012, despite sand extraction due to cease at the end of 2018. The Trust was advised that this was no longer within the remit of the Ministers, despite the Environment Minster having clear obligations under Policy MR7, and that responsibility now lay with the Ports of Jersey. Ports of Jersey advised the National Trust that they were in the process of developing a Master Plan but questioned whether the development of such importation facilities was economically feasible.
(f) In 2018 Simon Sand sought a revision to their existing permit to enable a further five years of extraction. Despite a clear lack of compliance with two key planning conditions and the Trust’s request for further information from the Environment Minister (John Young), consent was granted under officer’s delegated powers as opposed to being placed before Planning Panel. The Natural Environment Team’s recommendations including a planning obligation agreement for restoration were wholly ignored. Lack of compliance was acknowledged by the officer but no date set for enforcement.
(g) Currently the planning conditions still remain outstanding and Simon Sand and Gravel Limited has now entered discussions to sell the site to W P Recycling/Dune Restoration Limited who are interested in using the site for landfill, which has the potential to generate considerable revenue. Dune Restoration Ltd has been in active discussions with the Environment Department as to whether landfill might be permissible under the terms of the existing planning consent as a means of securing restoration. The Trust considers this to be contrary to W S Atkins Environmental Impact Assessment (2003) as well as the existing planning conditions, and believes that any such proposals necessitate a new planning application and EIA thereby ensuring public consultation and scrutiny. This is particularly pertinent given that the water body is polluted with PFOS and without adequate hydrological assessment and mitigation, any proposed landfill has the potential to pollute important sources of the Island’s fresh water supply including the Well Fields.
In conclusion the National Trust has been seeking clarification on long term restoration and aftercare proposals since the 197Os. Both Simon Sand and Gravel Limited together with the States Environment Department have failed to meet their clear obligations to deliver such a strategy, with no progress on importation facilities or the development of a restoration plan. The decision by the Environment Department not to take the necessary enforcement action simply begs the question as to whether it considers it appropriate for Jersey to remain the only place in Europe still extracting duneland sand, whilst the UK government spends £4m actively restoring this increasingly rare habitat?
In this respect the Trust considers that no planning applicant, regardless of their perceived status, should be able to dictate as and when they will comply with the planning conditions they have legally agreed to observe upon activating their consent. Regardless of who owns the site the public has a legitimate expectation that this site will be restored sooner rather than later, as per existing planning conditions and current Island Plan policy. It is the Trust’s contention that the responsibility for completing this work should clearly fall upon the very same people who have benefited from the extraction they have undertaken for the last 111 years.
Chief Executive Officer
For and on behalf of The Council of The National Trust for Jersey