The People’s Park included in hospital location rethink
THE People’s Park – along with five other sites – is to be re-examined as a potential location for Jersey’s new hospital, it has been announced.
Two years after public protests forced ministers to withdraw the site from the shortlist, and despite an almost unanimous States decision in 2016 for a £466 million rebuild on the current site, a new board has been set up to re-examine sites that had previously been discounted.
The sites are: the People’s Park – which former Health Minister Andrew Green previously admitted was the ‘best site’, St Saviour’s Hospital, Warwick Farm, Overdale, the Waterfront and a dual-site option.
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The new board is to be chaired by Assistant Chief Minister Chris Taylor – a vocal proponent of considering sites other than the current location. In April, the former States Assembly rejected a proposition from Mr Taylor calling for work on the Future Hospital project to be delayed for six months so that an independent team could review the suitability of building on the current site. The proposal was defeated 25 votes to 19.
Health Minister Richard Renouf – who supported the proposition to rebuild on the current site – and new Members Deputies Trevor Pointon, Roland Huelin and Constable Richard Buchanan, have also been appointed to the new board.
The review, which effectively puts all the options back on the table before a new Council of Ministers, comes after a revised planning application to base the new £466 million facility on the current Gloucester Street site was lodged in April.
The board is due to report its findings to Chief Minister John Le Fondré by October.
Mr Taylor said the board had a ‘very important’ role and added: ‘We have to get the confidence of the public, which at the moment we don’t have for the site location for the Hospital.’
However, he stressed that it was essential that the board reported on its findings in a ‘timely manner’ to ensure that if it concluded that building on the current site was the right decision, then construction work would not be delayed.
A public inquiry on the outline application submitted by the Future Hospital team is due to begin in September.
‘What we are looking to do is examine all the evidence, consult with the medical staff at the Hospital, States Members and the general public,’ Mr Taylor said. ‘We need to look at all the information that is available and if there is any information we need, then we have to obtain that.
‘We can check that the decisions made to date have been based on evidence.’
He added that it was ‘unlikely’ that the board would look at any other plots, unless it decided that building across two sites was the best way forward. Mr Taylor said he was unable to comment on where any other potential sites might be.
In 2016, the then Health Minister withdrew the People’s Park from the shortlist in a surprise U-turn just hours before the States was due to debate a proposition from St Helier Constable Simon Crowcroft to discount the site from the discussions.
There were scenes of jubilation in the Royal Square, when hundreds of Islanders, who had gathered to protest in opposition to the park option, learned that it had been withdrawn. Protestors had previously lain down in the mud at the park in front of a JCB digger they provided in a public stunt to show their opposition to building on the land.
At the time, then-Senator Green said he had decided to remove the park from the shortlist after it became apparent that he was not going to get enough votes to beat the proposition from Mr Crowcroft to exclude the plot.
The issue had previously divided the Council of Ministers, with a number of senior figures understood to have opposed the Council’s public support for building on the park. Economic Development Minister Lyndon Farnham – one of only three former ministers still with a seat at the Council of Minister’s table in the new government – broke ranks and opposed the plan.
Later that year, in December 2016, the States voted 34 to three to adopt Senator Green’s plans for a rebuild on the current site.
Deputies Judy Martin, Mike Higgins and Simon Brée – who is no longer in the States – voted against the proposition. Mr Taylor was not present for the vote.