Deputy Chief Minister Lyndon Farnham yesterday made a request to the States Assembly for a special sitting, which was backed by a further 15 Members, and a debate has been scheduled to start on Monday.
The move came after a breakdown in relations between the political oversight group for the hospital – which Senator Farnham leads – and the Future Hospital Review Panel chaired by Senator Kristina Moore.
The debate was brought forward by a week following the lodging of an amendment by Senator Moore’s panel, which calls for ministers to produce detailed drawings of the access route by 2 March, as well as details regarding access by different modes of transport, acquisition of third-party land, impact assessments, timescales and budget.
The amendment brought a sharp response from Senator Farnham, who wrote to Senator Moore saying that the requests could cause further unnecessary and costly delays and put the whole hospital project at risk.
In his email, Senator Farnham said that details regarding the proposed access option had been shared with the Scrutiny panel almost six months ago, but that the panel’s expert advisers had still not been able to produce a report.
Senator Farnham added that members of the political oversight group felt that there was enough information contained in both the Site Selection Report and the subsequent road access strategy to enable politicians to select the preferred access route.
The ministerial proposals would see Westmount Road used as the preferred access route for Overdale. However, residents and backbenchers have criticised the government for not providing detailed drawings of the proposed route and the impact it would have on nearby houses and amenities. Other concerns have been raised about the potential impact on the People’s Park and traffic congestion in town.
In the email, Senator Farnham said: ‘The oversight group does not believe that further review and consultation would have added to the process or would have changed the outcome,’ he said. ‘We engaged with the key stakeholders, importantly looking at all 71 of the options [for the access route].
‘Consultation will be increased over the coming weeks, if the Assembly supports us to progress with the project, and will be reinforced by an increasing level of detail in terms of plans and design.’
Accusations that ministers had failed to compromise were rebuffed by Senator Farnham.
‘Scrutiny has made very little compromise, if any, in this instance,’ he said. ‘There has been adequate time for thorough and ample consultation, given that the proposed route has been with the panel since September 2020.’
In a recent letter to the JEP, Sir Philip Bailhache, a former External Relations Minister, said States Members should not feel compelled to accept the need to spend nearly £40 million on the access route because of the ‘threats’ of delay.
‘No private individual would be as reckless as this government proposes to be,’ he wrote. ‘The States are being asked to authorise the start of a journey before knowing for certain that they can arrive at an affordable destination.’
Senator Farnham said: ‘The States have so far wasted eight years and considerable sums of money by failing at all previous attempts to deliver a new hospital. The timeline and impetus which is driving the project has not been designed to fit a specific agenda. It is determined by our ageing and decaying health estate and the unsustainable cost of maintaining it past 2026. This is why there can be no further delay.
‘Islanders want us to get on and deliver a new hospital and, regrettably, we have got to the point where we have to take action to ensure the project can move ahead. The latest amendment from Scrutiny seeks even more unnecessary delay and puts the whole project at risk.’