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Islanders say 'no' to landmark building in St Helier

News | Published:

  • Islanders voted overwhelmingly against an idea to build a 'landmark' building in St Helier
  • 369 people took the JEP's online poll, with three quarters of them against the idea
  • Environment Minister Steve Luce had raised the issue earlier this month
  • Some Islanders said that they would need to see plans before commenting on such a scheme

PRELIMINARY plans for a 'landmark' office tower in St Helier have been met with resistance from Islanders.

Last week Environment Minister Steve Luce told Jersey's business community that it could be time to build an eye-catching office block in town that would show confidence in the economy.

The results of the JEP online poll

Deputy Luce told a 250-strong audience at last week's monthly Chamber of Commerce lunch 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".'

However, a JEP poll opened to the public over the weekend revealed that more than three quarters of respondents are opposed to the idea of having a structure in town that is two or three times the average height of most of the capital's buildings.

In response to the question 'would you like to see an iconic tower in Jersey?' a total of 369 people voted. Of that number 291 were against the move, with 78 backing the idea – a split of 78.8 per cent and 21.1 per cent respectively.

Deputy Luce's suggestion also prompted Islanders to comment on the JEP's website and Facebook page.

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Cate Hamilton wrote: 'Most people will tell you that what is required in terms of building is affordable housing – not pointless constructions that will struggle to be filled by businesses.

'The finance centre proposal is bad enough! If you want something distinctive on the skyline, the redevelopment of Fort Regent as an all-weather leisure, entertainment and sporting complex for residents and visitors should be taking precedence. The people of Jersey have requested that loud and long enough!'

Architect Daniel Goodricke added: 'I am an architect and was born and schooled in Jersey.

'I now lecture at a UK university and as part of my work have recently visited south-east Asia, much of which has become increasingly westernised in terms of culture and the built environment, resulting in a loss in identity.

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'St Helier has very little merit architecturally, but this proposal is not the answer. I believe in aspiring to an architecture that is simultaneously of its time and also timelessly embodies the spirit of a site, its "genius loci".

'Architectural solutions should be grounded in their specific contexts, which are unique and appropriate, and which deal with current social and political issues. This proposal, albeit highly theoretical and lacking refinement, seems to address none of these considerations.'

Others, however, said that Islanders should wait to see more detailed plans for the proposed tower.

Matthew Robins said: 'It's just possible that this could be a brilliant idea in terms of economic growth and relieving development pressure on other parts of town.

The Radisson

It is the building that every Islander loves to hate. It even won an award a few years back for being such a monstrosity and UK architects who visit Jersey are still known to question its bizarre orange colour. Plans for the Radisson started being made back in 1992 when the States approved the first blueprint for the area. A scheme submitted by German company Bilfinger & Berger Ltd was approved in 1999 by the then Planning Committee but shelved when the company pulled out of the UK two years later. In 2004 plans for the Radisson we know today were submitted and then approved the following March by the Planning Committee, which was then headed by Senator Philip Ozouf. It followed battles both behind the scenes and publicly over the years, including rows between the Waterfront Enterprise Board and Planning about the size and scale of the building.

Portelet Bay

If you have ever come into Jersey on the ferry from the UK and stood on deck just as you round the south-west corner you will no doubt have heard someone utter: 'Just look at that monstrosity.' They always are, of course, referring to the Portelet Bay development. Islanders were asked to wait until the development was finished in 2011 before passing judgment. And, most were in agreement: they hated it. Some, however, rather like it. Built by Dandara, the development has won six architectural awards and when finished the homes cost between £705,000 for a flat and £2.75m for the largest house. But, even today some Islanders still haven't been convinced by the scheme, which was passed by former Environment Minister Freddie Cohen against planning officer advice.

The Co-op's Charing Cross site

This is another one that has been rumbling on for years. The Co-op has wanted to redevelop the site and a number of surrounding buildings for a while but only unveiled major plans for it in 2012. For a year and a half the development was discussed and debated both professionally by those directly involved and around kitchen tables by those who were not. Most of the talk revolved around the loss or not of six listed buildings at the site. The controversy came to a head last August, when the planning applications panel, which decides some applications under delegated powers from the minister, rejected the Co-op's latest plans for the site, which included creating a bigger store and new shop front and offices. The scheme would have resulted in the loss of four of the six historic buildings and was recommended for rejection by planning officers. The business then lodged an appeal with the Royal Court against former Environment Minister Rob Duhamel, who is held ultimately responsible for any planning decisions made. In December 2014, the Co-op received permission to build a Premier Inn at the site, above a revamped shopping store.

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