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People’s Park champion ‘shocked’ by new review

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THE row over Jersey’s new hospital being built on the People’s Park has reignited after it emerged that previously discounted sites – including the park – are being reviewed.

Former St Helier Deputy Jackie Hilton was among those who protested against building the new hospital on The People's Park. Picture: JON GUEGAN (21984134)

However, both the Chief Minister and the Constable of St Helier have moved to reassure Islanders that just because the park is being re-examined does not mean there is necessarily the political appetite to actually build the new hospital on the site.

Among those alarmed by the news that the People’s Park is to be reconsidered as a potential location by a newly formed board is a former States Member who is threatening to come out of political retirement in a bid to save the green space in St Helier.

Jackie Hilton stepped down ahead of the General Election in May and says she was left ‘shocked and disappointed’ by the latest twist in the new hospital saga.

She said: ‘Hands off the People’s Park. It’s not called the People’s Park for nothing. It is literally the people’s park.’

The former Deputy for St Helier No 3/4 led the Save People’s Park campaign in 2016 when it emerged as the Council of Ministers’ preferred site for the new hospital. The then Health Minister Andrew Green relented and withdrew the site from the shortlist following widespread public opposition, including a tense public meeting in a packed Town Hall.

Ms Hilton added: ‘I’ve been out of the States 13 weeks and I’m left wondering if it’s time to get the committee out fighting again? I will have to think carefully as this issue is something that would stir me into action. I can’t believe I’m hearing this.’

And she is not ruling out leading a renewed campaign if the People’s Park makes any new shortlist of sites.

‘After all our hard work, the 8,000 or so signatures we gathered in barely two weeks, I hope States Members recognise the depth of feeling. Senator Green recognised that. Revisiting this will be an uphill struggle. I believe both the public and the majority of States Members are against it. For me the best site was always the Waterfront.’

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A new panel led by Constable Chris Taylor is to re-examine sites that had previously been rejected, including the Waterfront, St Saviour’s Hospital, Warwick Farm, Overdale, the park and a dual site option. And yesterday the States agreed to let an independent planning inspector due to review the current plans for a rebuild on the current hospital site look at other possible locations if he felt it was necessary and justified.

However, the Constable of St Helier, Simon Crowcroft, moved to allay fears that the park could be built on.

He said: ‘It will upset people. It would be perfectly unacceptable to revisit the People’s Park. The new panel is reviewing the facts and figures and costs of all the shortlisted sites. Whether or not the People’s Park is the cheapest and the quickest, there is no indication within the States that it could ever be in serious contention again.’

The Chief Minister, Senator John Le Fondré, echoed that sentiment.

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He said: ‘My personal political take is that the People’s Park has a lot of difficulties in its path but it is for the board to look at the main sites to make sure we have like-for-like comparisons. At this stage I cannot see how the People’s Park would be politically acceptable.’

One of the previous Council of Ministers who broke ministerial ranks and opposed the People’s Park plan two years ago, before the eventual decision to rebuild the new hospital on the current site, was Senator Lyndon Farnham. This time around he says he is staying open-minded.

He said: ‘I think the Chief Minister has put together a new panel to look at everything quickly. I think we should let the panel do their work and I will remain open-minded. They need to determine what’s best for Jersey. It’s imperative we move on and don’t delay the build, wherever we end up.’

The review panel, comprising Mr Taylor, alongside Health Minister Richard Renouf, Constable Richard Buchanan and Deputies Trevor Pointon and Rowland Huelin, have pledged to report back by October. Meanwhile, a public inquiry into current plans for the rebuild on the current site is due to begin in September.

Where would you like to see the new hospital built? Have your say in our poll at jerseyeveningpost.com

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