‘NOTHING underhand’ took place in rezoning a St Mary field owned by a housing trust linked to the Chief Minister, according to the parish Constable – after a former Senator claimed there had been a ‘lack of transparency’.
Constable John Le Bailly has defended the States Assembly’s decision to keep field MY563 – a three-vergée plot near Bethlehem Methodist Church – on a list of sites specifically zoned for affordable homes under the Bridging Island Plan, which governs planning policy and was approved in March.
The site was sold to the Les Vaux Housing Trust in 2019 for £35,000 – a move that prompted criticism from Age Concern chair and former Senator Ben Shenton, who raised concerns over Chief Minister John Le Fondré’s position as a trustee with the affordable housing provider and his involvement in the political decision-making process.
He also questioned whether the vendor, who is understood to be elderly, was aware that the field could be rezoned for redevelopment under the Island Plan – as this could raise its value significantly.
‘I think when it was passed by the [States] Assembly they didn’t know the history of the site and should have been made aware of the concerns I had raised,’ he said, arguing that there had been a ‘lack of transparency’.
However, Mr Le Bailly said ‘nothing underhand’ had been done to rezone the field and that, in his opinion, the vendor was ‘very much aware’ of the situation.
‘There is no collusion or corruption going on behind the scenes.
‘There was always a possibility of it getting rezoned, it was just a question of time,’ he added, noting that Jersey was ‘desperate for first-time-buyer housing’.
‘The fact that a strip of land in St Mary has been rezoned for affordable housing has got to be a plus,’ he said.
Records show that Senator Le Fondré did make a declaration of interest in relation to field MY563 during the Island Plan debate.
In January 2020, Tommy A’Court – the estate agent involved in the sale – said it was ‘very unlikely’ that the land would be developed.
Yesterday he said he was ‘very surprised’ that the States Assembly had approved the rezoning.
‘When we looked at it at the time it was [designated as] protected open space,’ he added.
The JEP has asked the Chief Minister and the Les Vaux Housing Trust for comment.