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UK planning inspector can look at other hospital sites

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A UK planning inspector will be allowed to comment on other potential sites for the new hospital after the States agreed to expand the scope of an independent planning inquiry.

An artist's impression from 2016 of how a new hospital could look

Fresh plans for the £466 million project have already been submitted after the original proposals were thrown out by then-Environment Minister Steve Luce due to concerns over the height and mass of the building. The concerns had been raised by independent planning inspector Philip Staddon, who reviewed the application and recommended it be rejected.

Mr Staddon has once again been commissioned to hold a public inquiry into the updated plans, with that inquiry due to begin in September.

However, on this occasion he will now be allowed to review and make comments about other potential sites for the hospital if he deems it ‘necessary and appropriate’ to do so after the States agreed to change the terms of reference for the planning inquiry.

On Tuesday it was announced that a new policy development board had been set up – chaired by Assistant Chief Minister Chris Taylor – to re-examine sites that had previously been discounted, including the People’s Park and the Waterfront.

Deputy Russell Labey had previously lodged a proposition calling for Mr Staddon to be allowed to look at the other sites as ‘so many people have lost confidence or become sceptical about the whole process’.

He argued that allowing an independent inspector to review the sites would give greater confidence to the public, and States Members, about the site selection.

He said: ‘Putting a spade in the ground of the wrong site is not clever. We have to be absolutely sure that we are doing the right thing with a building that is going to take seven or eight years to complete.’

Several Members argued that the only way to restore some public confidence in the scheme would be to allow an independent inspector to review other options. Deputy Rowland Huelin said: ‘This is the first stage in trying to regain public confidence in the most important project that we will have during our four years in office.’

Opposing the proposition, Deputy Luce said that widening the scope of the planning inquiry was ‘confusing two issues’ as site selection and the planning application were separate matters.

Health Minister Richard Renouf added that while he felt the proposals from Deputy Labey were ‘well meaning’ they were ‘unnecessary and potentially confusing’. He added that the proposition was not the best way to provide assurance to the public over the site. Deputy Labey’s proposition was approved by 34 votes to seven with one abstention. Senators Lyndon Farnham, Kristina Moore and Sam Mézec and Deputies Susie Pinel, Steve Luce, Richard Renouf and Steve Ahier voted against the proposals with Environment Minister John Young abstaining.

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