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Call to save listed Georgian house from redevelopment

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PLANS to demolish a Georgian townhouse as part of a £70 million redevelopment in a neglected area of town should be scrapped and the listed building rescued, a heritage group has said.

Property company Le Masurier unveiled plans for Bath Street, which include 145 flats and a 122-bedroom Premier Inn, in what would be one of the biggest single development projects St Helier has ever seen, if given the go-ahead.

However, the plans include the demolition of an 1830s Regency-era building to make way for the hotel.

And Marcus Binney, president of Save Jersey’s Heritage, said he is ‘determined’ to block the loss of the listed building and instead hopes to see it incorporated in the planning design.

More than 200 Islanders attended a public exhibition on the redevelopment last week, with Le Masurier managing director Brian McCarthy saying the feedback received had been ‘overwhelmingly positive’.

The listed townhouse sits above the existing Cog and Sprocket bike shop and would be torn down as part of the project.

Mr Binney said: ‘We welcome the regeneration of this site but we are concerned about the listed building.

‘The Regency era was a golden age for architecture – towns like Bath, Cheltenham and Leamington Spa all had glory days and that touched the Channel Islands too in a wonderful way. We have got to look after these things, not let them be chipped away two or three at a time.’

He cited Save Jersey’s Heritage project to restore dilapidated buildings in Pitt Street and Hue Court as examples of projects which have saved sites of architectural interest.

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‘Georgian buildings have been restored and rescued but it does seem to be an incredible battle sometimes to save them,’ Mr Binney added.

‘It has been listed by the States of Jersey as a special interest site and it is terrible in a scheme with plenty of space that one should have a sweep-it-all-away approach.

‘Everywhere across Britain these houses have been restored – that can happen in St Helier and I am determined to make it happen in this particular case.’

He said the States had a wider responsibility to protect listed buildings and prevent them from falling into disrepair.

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‘This is what happens if you neglect your listed buildings – they become eyesores,’ he said. ‘Are we just going to get rid of them or can we take that bit of extra effort and restore them to glory?

‘If a listed building is neglected in the mainland there is the potential to serve a repairs notice on the owners. There is a mechanism for serving repairs orders which doesn’t seem to exist in Jersey. Jersey is allowing these listed buildings to become neglected and to become eyesores. These buildings, even when they look quite distressed, can be refurbished and successfully so.

‘If we want tourism in Jersey, people want to come and look at an attractive pretty town. Are we winning or losing if we continue to chip away at the listed buildings?’

The scheme would create at least 100 new jobs – 70 in construction and a further 35 at the Premier Inn. It is also estimated that the new hotel would be able to accommodate around 40,000 overnight stays per year – potentially adding £1.6 million in visitor spend to the economy.

Following last week’s exhibitions, Mr McCarthy said: ‘The public feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. From our survey responses – and the residents and business people I’ve spoken to – the public have praised how the development will regenerate this part of town at no cost to the taxpayer.

‘Premier Inn has seen a strong demand in Jersey through their Charing Cross hotel – with a 90% occupancy rate since it opened – and they are keen to open another as a result.

‘I understand that parking is a general concern in St Helier. The Bath Street Redevelopment provides 130 residential and Premier Inn guest parking spaces. It doesn’t offer commuter parking, though, and that is so we comply with various States department requirements. As part of the States’ sustainable transport policy, developments in St Helier cannot include commuter parking.’

The next stage of the proposed development is for a planning application to be submitted, which is expected to be in early May.

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