THE time being taken to decide the outcome of a hearing into plans for a Centre Parcs-style holiday village next to Tamba Park could put the project back by a year, the businessman behind the proposal has said.
Jonathan Ruff first sought approval for 27 two- and three-bedroom self-catering timber-clad and moveable lodges set in landscaped parkland on a site currently occupied by a disused glasshouse complex last summer.
He had hoped to welcome the first guests in 2019 but he is still waiting for a decision on the plans – two years after he began drawing up the proposal.
‘I had wanted to get it open in time for next summer but I can only do this if I am given the green light soon as it is a massive building project,’ he said.
‘The Island spends £5 million of public money promoting Jersey as a tourist destination every year but when someone like me comes along, willing to invest money to try to do something that benefits that department they get no encouragement,’ he said.
‘Why should I keep spending money to keep getting knocked back? What does Jersey want to do? Does it want to grow tourism? If not, then it might as well shut down Visit Jersey.’
Rather than being decided by the standard planning process, former Environment Minister Deputy Steve Luce called for an inquiry into the plans to be heard by UK planning inspector Graham Self.
He made the decision to hold an inquiry as the development would be a significant departure from the States-approved Island Plan as the site is in the green zone where there is a general presumption against new development.
The inquiry was held in February but the decision was delayed when Deputy Luce requested more information. It usually takes about six weeks for the minister to make a decision on an inspector’s recommendations.
The general election in May and Deputy Luce being replaced as Environment Minister last month by Deputy John Young led to a further delay with a decision now expected later this month.
‘Five months after the hearing and I am still waiting for an answer,’ Mr Ruff said. ‘I appreciate that there is a process that needs to be followed but I am a businessman wanting to invest a significant amount of money and a business just can’t stand still for that length of time.’
The application has the backing of Visit Jersey, with chief executive Keith Beecham saying that it would have a positive impact on the visitor economy, adding accommodation to the Island’s tourist stock and providing 12 jobs in the hospitality sector.
The application also proposed returning half of the ten-vergée site back to agricultural use. It was considered in tandem with an application for a four-bedroom house on part of the site.
Mr Ruff had applied previously to develop the Retreat Farm site for housing, as well as for bowling and go-karting facilities. He withdrew the application in the face of opposition to the plans and concern that he may not receive planning permission.