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Jersey's version of The Shard? Environment Minister outlines vision for 'landmark' office tower

News | Published:

  • Environment Minister Steve Luce told Chamber of Commerce lunch that a huge office tower could be built
  • Deputy Luce outlined vision for 'landmark' building in town
  • JEP comment: 'This is a time of need, not want'
  • Does Jersey need a building like The Shard? Take our poll below

A 'LANDMARK' office tower three times the size of most St Helier buildings could be constructed under plans being considered by the Environment Minister.

In an announcement made in front of the Island's business community, Deputy Steve Luce outlined his vision for a large office block that would dwarf other developments in town.

As public debate over the separate Jersey International Finance Centre and the need for more office space continues, Deputy Luce told a 250-strong audience at Thursday's monthly Chamber of Commerce lunch that it could be time to consider building St Helier's tallest tower to help boost the economy.

'What better statement to make about our confidence in the commercial quarter of St Helier than to have a stand-out building, something to be proud of, something that our business community can take pride in.'

The St Martin Deputy said that such a building would reflect the quality and integrity of the Island's financial services industry, and added: 'It would be a building that everyone can look at and say "we did that and it's good".'

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After the speech Deputy Luce said that the structure could be built near the Waterfront or Esplanade or at Charing Cross, but that it would not be on the same scale as London's Shard.

He added: 'We're not looking for hundreds of floors, but we are looking for a stand-out building. It doesn't necessarily have to have an enormous footprint, but it might be something like twice or three times the height of what's around at the moment – or higher.

Ogier's new offices on the Esplanade

'We might look to involve the private sector, so it could be a joint venture.'

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When asked whether St Helier needed a 'landmark building' that was significantly higher than its surroundings, developer Dandara's managing director Martin Clancy said he was unsure and that politicians would need to gauge public opinion.

Senator Philip Ozouf, whose political portfolio comprises financial services, digital technology, competition and innovation, said that Jersey needed to show confidence in the capital and across the Island.

'Jersey is moving forward economically and we should not shy away from embracing the sort of commercial buildings that other jurisdictions – our competitors – are building.

Carey Olsen is also based at the Esplanade

'Of course they need to be appropriate to the Island, but I for one am pleased to hear a Planning Minister who is going to focus on at least seeing what is possible. We should not lower our aspirations in any of our work, not least our built environment.'

Economic Development Minister Lyndon Farnham said the Island had been 'unimaginative' in its approach to commercial buildings in the past, but that a landmark building was unlikely to take priority over larger policy areas or the financial pressures faced by the States.

'There's definitely a feel-good factor with these things.'

Deputy Kristina Moore

Home Affairs Minister Kristina Moore said: 'I would like to support the Environment Minister's comments.

'On a recent family holiday I revisited a number of beautiful cities that I last saw some time ago, I was thinking about this very issue as a great number of landmark buildings had appeared on their landscapes.

'It struck me that rather than detracting from the natural and physical beauty of these cities, the presence of iconic buildings added to our appreciation of these places.

I appreciate that St Helier is not a city, but I agree with Deputy Luce that a standout building would make a statement about our confidence in Jersey.

'It would also be a positive addition to our townscape.'

Assistant Chief Minister Philip Ozouf

Senator Philip Ozouf, who has political responsibility for Jersey's financial services, digital sector, innovation and competition, said: 'A new deal for St Helier was something I campaigned for in my election.

'This was not just the issue of the States paying rates, but a revitalised and regenerated St Helier.

'The renaissance of St Helier is a key priority for this council.

'The aim is to have a St Helier which people aspire to live in, enjoy working in and visiting.

'We need greater pride and economic growth in our capital.

'We need to aspire to show confidence in our town and Island.

'Keeping the Island special by enhancing the protection of our coast such as Plémont, prioritising the really important historic sites.

Buildings can be classified in different ways according to their use.

Because of this engineers and designers have created a list of 49 categories that commemorate the tallest structures in the world.

Here are ten from that list:

  • Skyscraper: Dubai’s 830-metre Burj Khalifa (right). Before that Taipei 101, formerly known as the Taipei World Financial Center, was officially classified as the world's tallest skyscraper in 2004, and held the record until the opening of Burj Khalifa in 2010.
  • Twin towers: The 452-metre Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur.
  • Dam: The Jinping-I Dam in Liangshan in China stands at 305 metres.
  • Water Tower: The main tower of Kuwait Towers is 187 metres tall.
  • Wooden structure: ATLAS-I at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico is 180 metres tall.
  • Sculpture: The Spire of Dublin stands at 121.2 metres.
  • Freestanding flagpole: The Jeddah Flagpole in Saudi Arabia in 171 metres tall.
  • Ferris Wheel: In Las Vegas the High Roller Ferris Wheel is 173 metres tall.
  • Wind Turbine: Denmark has the tallest wind turbine, which is called Vestas V164-8.0 and is 222 metres tall
  • Radar: Israel’s Dimona Radar Facility stands at 400 metres.

ST Helier is at the heart of political debate – and rightly so.

The Council of Ministers have made revitalising town one of their four key priorities and Senator Philip Ozouf narrowly secured another term in the States with his promise of a new deal for St Helier in the run-up to last year's elections.

Jersey needs to be proud of its capital, a place where tens of thousands of people live, work, shop and play every day.

With the population at 100,000 and rising, demand for more affordable housing shows no sign of abating. Time and again Islanders have voiced their strong support for preserving Jersey's beautiful countryside and coastline, which means St Helier is likely to be asked, yet again, to accommodate more homes.

Environment Minister Steve Luce and the team at Planning understand that and want to find creative, forward-thinking solutions to provide modern urban homes which foster communities where people actually want to live.

For the time being, however, focus has been diverted by the argument still raging over the Jersey International Finance Centre – the aesthetics of its design, the impact on the rest of St Helier and, most significantly, whether there is anyone to rent the much vaunted 'grade-A office space'.

Levels of popular engagement with the multi-faceted debate about the future of St Helier demonstrate how much Islanders care and reflect the direct democracy which exists in a small Island.

But after hundreds of column inches devoted to the subject on the letters pages of the JEP, on internet forums and after numerous conversations in pubs and around kitchen tables, one thing that has been absent from the debate is a call for a statement office tower, a Shard or Petronas Towers for Jersey, albeit on a smaller scale.

Yesterday, however, Deputy Luce used a speech to the Chamber of Commerce to outline his vision for a new office block in St Helier which would dwarf existing towers.

He made the comments moments after Chamber president James Filleul introduced him saying that his election marked a step away from the more eccentric-sounding ideas of his predecessor. Some left the lunch feeling not so sure.

Jersey needs visionary leaders, but with so many pressing challenges, the Island must also have people with their feet firmly on the ground. This is a time of need, not want.

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