The selection by ministers of Overdale as the preferred site for the new hospital was backed by States Members earlier this month, but only after an amendment was agreed that a report on access to the site must be prepared.
St Helier Constable Simon Crowcroft’s amendment stipulated that no land or properties should be acquired prior to the access report being presented, but the JEP can reveal that negotiations were continuing within days of the Assembly vote.
However, Deputy Lyndon Farnham, the Deputy Chief Minister who has political responsibility for the hospital project, insisted that no properties would be bought until due process as agreed by the States had been followed.
Westmount resident Tamara Vanmeggelen was contacted by an agent working on behalf of the project last Friday, with a cash offer to acquire part of her driveway. An email from D2 Real Estate, which has confirmed that the email was sent out after the States debate, stated that it was the intention to complete the transaction in January 2021.
‘The message from the Assembly was that they needed to go back and rethink, but they are obviously not doing that,’ Ms Vanmeggelen said, adding that she had yet to receive a response to questions sent to the project director on Sunday.
Deputy Mary Le Hegarat, who represents St Helier districts 3 and 4, said she was concerned that moves to buy land and properties were continuing.
‘They are putting the cart before the horse, which seems to be a bit of a trait,’ she said. ‘I only voted for Overdale as a result of the amendment – access is the biggest factor, and it was quite clear that we needed the report before negotiations carried on.
‘You can’t have a scenario where the government goes against a vote like this – that’s not how a democratic society works.’
Senator Farnham, who chairs the Our Hospital Political Oversight Group, said that it was necessary to continue engaging with residents about potential acquisitions, but that none of the transactions would be concluded at this stage.
‘There are no plans to acquire any properties before a report on alternative access strategies, as required by the amendment presented to the States Assembly,’ he added. ‘In the meantime, engagement with landowners will continue.’
Senator Farnham said he hoped the access report would be completed by the end of January. However, when contacted by the JEP in light of the agent’s email which stated that they hoped to complete transactions in January, he said that he had made a mistake and that the aim was to lodge a report and States proposition related to it before Christmas.
‘There are also transactions that have been delayed, so we want to complete the report in order to provide certainty as soon as possible,’ he added.
Senator Kristina Moore, chairperson of the Corporate Services Scrutiny Panel, was another to criticise the process.
‘Sadly this is an example of the deceptive, bulldozer approach for our senior civil servants and their disregard for the Assembly,’ she said.
Further questions regarding the issue are expected to be asked by States Members at the next meeting of the Assembly, which is due to start on Monday [7 December] afternoon.