The comment, made by Housing Minister Sam Mézec, comes at a time when Assistant Chief Minister Chris Taylor has been tasked with leading a review into formerly discounted hospital sites, including the park.
Meanwhile, an online poll of JEP readers has seen the People’s Park chosen as the most popular site of those being considered.
In a Facebook post, Senator Mézec said: ‘The new hospital will not be built on People’s Park. It is politically impossible. End of story.’
But when asked whether this statement reflected the views of the government, Chief Minister John Le Fondré distanced himself from the Housing Minister’s absolute position and referred to the agreement he made with Reform Jersey in return for their swing votes to secure him the top job.
He said: ‘This Council of Ministers will set out a position on the hospital site when the board established to review the evidence in full has reported in October. However, it was agreed when this government was formed that being a minister would not prevent Senator Mézec from speaking on behalf of his political party, and his comments were made on his own behalf.’
Of the 2,000 Islanders who responded to the JEP online poll, 27% said that they would rather see the new hospital built on the People’s Park. This compared to second-place choice St Saviour’s hospital, with 21%, and the current site, which came in third with 17% of the votes (News Focus: Pages 8 and 9).
When concerns were raised that the integrity of the government’s review was being undermined by his Housing Minister’s guarantee that the People’s Park was not in contention, Senator Le Fondré said that Mr Taylor’s review board would be looking at the evidence.
‘When I stood for election I said I wanted to bring a wider collection of views into government’s decision-making process,’ he said. ‘The hospital review board is a vital part of that process. It’s reviewing the evidence on which the hospital site choice was based, as it’s important that we get this important decision right for the generations to come.’
However, with a conclusion yet to be reached, a government spokesperson confirmed that there had been no instruction to stop ongoing preparations for building on the current site. This includes the work of a team of civil servants whose brief is to press on with the project management and public engagement activities that relate to plans to build on the current site.
When asked for a comment on the potential cost to the taxpayer of work that continues to focus on a site that could ultimately be abandoned, a States spokesperson confirmed that it would be significantly less than the alternative cost of stopping work altogether.
‘It is more cost effective to continue the preparation work. If the review confirms the agreed site is the best one for Jersey, the work will remain on track and the hospital will open in 2024. If there is a decision to build on a different location, this preparatory work would represent a modest outlay compared to the cost of developing an alternative site.’