Ministers 'fail to deliver' on St Helier regeneration

THERE has been just a marginal increase in the number of St Helier residents ‘very satisfied’ with their neighbourhood despite town regeneration being designated one of the Council of Ministers’ top priorities two years ago, figures show.

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The statistics – which show that 35 per cent of adults living in St Helier were very satisfied with their local neighbourhood compared to 75 per cent in rural parishes – have been met with disappointment but no surprise from St Helier Deputies.

They say they show the division between Jersey’s rich and poor and north and south, and are indicative of the negative impact ‘cramming’ all development in St Helier but not providing more facilities can have.

And St Helier Constable Simon Crowcroft said the past three years had been an ‘uphill struggle’ to get fair treatment for St Helier, which should not have been the case given that its regeneration was set as one of five key priorities for government this term.

Even the battles the parish has won in the past year – an extension to the Millennium Town Park and last week’s vote that the States will pay rates which is worth around £700,000 a year to St Helier – were, the Constable says, ‘quite small’ when you consider the bigger picture and were not the work of ministers.

However, the politician leading the Future St Helier project – Environment Minister Steve Luce – has promised that there are still big plans in the pipeline for St Helier, but money is needed to fund it.

And, he says, a source for that cash injection could be in place as soon as next week if States Members approve his plans for a new Jersey Infrastructure Levy, which will essentially tax new developments.

‘Moving forward there is a big plan,’ he said.

The satisfaction figure for St Helier, which was published this week in the Jersey Opinions and Lifestyle Survey 2017, was just two per cent higher than the last time the same question was put to Islanders in 2013. That compared to 68 per cent in rural parishes.

In 2014 ministers set out, in their Strategic Plan for 2015-2018, an ambition to regenerate town as a ‘vibrant, environmentally aware and attractive urban centre of distinctive character that people want to use, visit, invest and live in’.

But Deputy Luce admitted that funding had been a problem, something he says could be rectified next week when the States debate proposals for the introduction of the JIL, the proceeds of which would be ploughed into parish projects and the regeneration of St Helier.

‘I suppose I am not surprised by the figures but I could probably say I am disappointed that the number hasn’t increased more since 2013,’ said Deputy Luce.

‘We know we are only scratching the surface at the moment.’

He added: ‘Future St Helier was never about this session of government or the next session it was about a ten-, 20-year project – moving forward there is a big plan.’

Mr Crowcroft said: ‘There is a lot to be proud of in the way St Helier looks at the moment and the way it feels and the fact that you have new businesses opening all the time, generally there is a feeling of optimism in town. But a lot of that is down to private investors.’

Meanwhile, St Helier No 3 Deputy Jackie Hilton said that the expansion of the Town Park and pedestrianisation of areas such as Charing Cross had made a difference but there was still a ‘long way to go’.

She added that St Helier is underrepresented in the States and said: ‘There is a big divide between north and south. I think we have to work harder for the residents of St Helier. I would like to see speed limits coming down, air quality in different positions around St Helier is a big issue and I think something that would probably help would be to bring back Hopper buses – we have an enormous amount of elderly people living in St Helier.’

And St Helier No 2 Deputy Geoff Southern hit out at ministers, accusing them of of making a promise which ‘meant nothing’.

‘What does regeneration mean? It means anything you want it to mean, in this case it means piling high and selling them cheap, it means the cramming of St Helier and urban areas rather than refreshing them.’

He added: ‘It is a reflection that we are a divided Island between rich and poor.’

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