Hospital shortlist: ‘Prepare to get unbelievable amounts of flak’
BATTLE lines over the five shortlisted hospital sites are already being drawn, with a Deputy warning the government they will get ‘unbelievable amounts of flak’ if they build on green spaces.
On Monday, the Council of Ministers unveiled its five-site shortlist, comprising Five Oaks, Millbrook playing field and nearby fields, St Andrew’s Park in First Tower, Overdale and the People’s Park.
St Helier Constable Simon Crowcroft quickly made a move for St Andrew’s Park to be removed from the shortlist, arguing that St Helier’s open spaces should not be part of the discussion. He also said that as the States have previously voted to protect the People’s Park from development, the site should not be on the shortlist.
Now, Deputy Mike Higgins, whose St Helier 3/4 district is home to St Andrew’s Park, said that there was ‘no chance’ that the facility could accommodate the new hospital. He added that, although not perfect, Overdale was a viable option.
‘It is not going to happen. I do not think a single Deputy would vote for it. It is the same with the People’s Park or Millbrook. It will not happen there. I do not think the government is advocating those three because they would be so stupid to do so. If they do, they are going to get flak – unbelievable amounts of flak,’ he said.
‘I notice the Waterfront did not come out in the mix and I think that would have been my preference. Of the five sites, and there are problems with every site, I would personally go with Overdale.
‘I think it is scaremongering to say it would dominate the skyline. It does not have to be that way. The ground slopes down at the back so they could built it in terraces and take advantage of that.’
Meanwhile, St Lawrence Deputy Kirsten Morel said he thought it would be difficult for the States to buy the land needed to build a hospital at Millbrook.
‘My second thought is about traffic. I find it hard to understand how they would be able to put the hospital there and not disrupt the traffic into town, especially in the morning. I think it would cause severe traffic disruption,’ he said.
‘That site would also pose issues for nearby residents. We have already had issues with noise from the Nightingale Hospital keeping people up at night and people have been coming to me, as their Deputy, asking about this. To be fair, the Growth, Housing and Environment Department have acted to turn off machinery at night but, if there was a working hospital there, 24 hours a day, then there would certainly be noise that would disrupt residents.’
Deputy Morel added that there were only two viable sites – the People’s Park and Overdale.
The £466 million project has been besieged by setbacks, with initial plans to build on the existing Gloucester Street site having twice been rejected, prompting the States Assembly to rescind it as the preferred option in February last year. Since then, a fresh review of all available sites has been carried out, leading to the five-strong shortlist announced this week.
Supporting Mr Crowcroft’s stance over the People’s Park, St Helier Deputy Rob Ward said that more than 670 apartments would soon have been built in his district and that it was crucial that green spaces in St Helier were not lost.
‘I think we need to be very aware of the amount of building that is going on in St Helier,’ he said.
‘I think perhaps the least-damaging site is Overdale but that brings its own problems that need to be solved. So we remain needing to be convinced for the final decision but we need to protect green spaces and we need to look at the wider impact of wherever it is built and what we can do to increase green spaces across St Helier, regardless of where the new hospital is located.’
Kenny McNeil, chairman of the Royal College of Nursing Union, said yesterday that the most important thing was that the project was completed on time.
‘We should have had this done a long time ago. The previous Health Minister Andrew Green said [in 2014] that he wanted to make a decision on a hospital site within 100 days,’ he said.
‘He has now come and gone and we are now in the second term of our next Health Minister and we are still not there yet.’
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