Opening of new hospital 'will not be delayed'
THE opening of the new hospital will not be delayed, despite the planning application being rejected this week, the project director has said.
Bernard Place, who is leading the health brief of the project, added that a solution would be found but stressed that site selection would not be revisited.
He made the comments after Environment Minister Steve Luce rejected the plans for the £466 million scheme following recommendations made by independent planning inspector Philip Staddon, who carried out a public inquiry into the proposals.
The size of the proposed building, along with the fact it was not in keeping with St Helier’s skyline, were core reasons why the application was refused.
Mr Place said the decision was ‘naturally disappointing’ but added that the project team now had a set of guidelines to work to which would enable it to come up with a solution such as setting a new, larger footprint for the building. He added that the scheme was not back to square one, as during the design process several different blueprints had been discussed.
He said: ‘This allows us to re-visit and look at some opportunities that we couldn’t get on to the smaller site.
‘The number one condition to the development of the new hospital is to be able to run the general hospital safely while construction is occurring. What we need to do is hold onto that core principle while looking at whether we can have a different footprint.
‘Whatever the solution is we will find it.’
Mr Place said there were no plans to look at alternative sites and added that the report from Mr Staddon and Deputy Luce comments ‘provide us with guidelines that we didn’t have on Monday’.
He added that the team needed to time to discuss and draw up a response to the planning report and that this might take some time. However, he said this would have no effect on the overall delivery of the hospital.
‘Nothing in that report changes the end goal,’ he said. ‘There are two years before a main contractor will put a spade in the ground.’
Meanwhile, Dr Simon Chapman, a clinical consultant within the Emergency Department, said he was confident that a new hospital could be built to the required specifications while running health services alongside a building site.
He said: ‘We initially had worries with regard to that but we are more than happy with the consultations that have been undertaken to say that a hospital can be built adjacent to a hospital site.
‘The design teams and clinicians pride ourselves on trying to problem solve – none of us are thinking this is unsolvable. It just needs a little bit of time to work it through.’
He added that he did not feel there would be scope to reduce the amount of floorspace and warned that any significant delays in the project could result in major problems for hospital staff because of the deteriorating condition of the current hospital.
‘We are inhibited by a design that was fit for purpose when it was constructed but things have moved on,’ he said. ‘If we are looking at a long-term regeneration process, then that will impact on what we can do. There is probably a five-or-so-year window that can be managed but if we start getting lengthy delays and start looking at ten years, then that is going to be problematic.
‘As residents, we are all concerned about what it looks like – we would like it to be sympathetic to the skyline like anybody else.
‘But, this Island needs a new hospital – fundamentally we are concerned about what it looks like inside.’