The structure, which will span Claremont Road to join Jersey College for Girls and Jersey College Preparatory, was approved on the grounds that it would drastically improve pupil safety and efficiency within the two schools and open up new educational opportunities.
A number of people spoke during yesterday’s Planning Committee meeting at which the application was approved, including JCG principal Carl Howarth, JCP head teacher Richard Sugden, Children’s Commissioner Deborah McMillan, several parents and three students.
Mr Howarth said that a great deal of work had been done to unify both schools in recent years and students often needed to transfer from one campus to the other.
‘The road is a narrow, two-way rat-run that cuts through the middle of the schools,’ he said. ‘There are 2,000 crossings every day, with some children being as young as four years old. That equates to 75,000 crossings during each term and, when we build our new music centre, that will rise to over one million each year.
‘The bridge will eliminate the high risk of crossing the dangerous road and unify the two halves of the campuses as one.’
He also said a tree would need to be felled to accommodate the bridge.
‘I will leave it to you to balance the life of one tree against the daily lives of our children,’ he said.
Mrs McMillan reminded the committee of their obligations to children under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, including article three – that the government must put the best interests of children as a primary consideration – and article six – that the government must do all it can to ensure the survival and development of children.
During the meeting, committee member Deputy Scott Wickenden raised concerns that the bridge would not be accessible to wheelchair users and contrary to discrimination laws. He added that ‘the most vulnerable pupils’ would remain exposed to risk.
However, Mr Howarth moved to allay concerns, adding that any disabled pupils not able to use the bridge would continue to be helped across the road by a member of staff.
Planning Committee chairman Deputy Russell Labey was the only member to uphold the Planning Department’s recommendation to refuse the proposals.
He said: ‘I feel like the disabled issue has been ducked by you and I have to, on planning grounds, with regards to scale, design and the impact of the structure in the area that it finds itself in, maintain refusal.’
Deputies Wickenden, Graham Truscott, Rowland Huelin and Constable Deidre Mezbourian approved the application.
St Saviour Deputy Jeremy Maçon abstained due to a conflict of interest and Deputy Kirsten Morel abstained as he had not been able to attend a site visit.