Stalemate over new hospital

THE new-hospital project is stuck in a Catch-22-style stalemate as a result of an ongoing dispute between parishioners of St Helier and the Our Hospital Project Team, it has emerged.

Exploratory drilling on the S-bend Westmount Road. Picture: JON GUEGAN. (30346140)
Exploratory drilling on the S-bend Westmount Road. Picture: JON GUEGAN. (30346140)

The JEP has learned that the parish has ordered the project team to stop work they were carrying out on parish land in recent days, including measuring and marking out areas with chalk paint, because it contravened a parish assembly decision that no invasive work should take place until the parish had been given plans for the controversial Westmount access road.

However delivery partner RoKFCC cannot draft the plans until they have done the work which they have been told to stop.

In a letter seen by this newspaper, Senator Lyndon Farnham, who has political responsibility for the project to build the new hospital at Overdale, has written to St Helier Constable Simon Crowcroft, expressing his frustration.

In it, the minister said: ‘In order to prepare the details requested by the parish assembly, the Our Hospital team needs certain essential information, including accurate measurements and ecological surveys. To this end, they have been liaising with Parish officials, as you requested, throughout February in order to move forward to produce the requested details.

‘The current Parish position to refuse access to the land for the non-invasive purpose of information gathering effectively means the team is unable to meet the will of the Parish Assembly as without the information, plans cannot be drawn up and details cannot be provided.

‘I cannot, therefore, at this stage, provide you with any timescale in order for you to plan another Parish Assembly. The decision of the Parish to prevent access is therefore preventing you meeting the terms of your own Parish Assembly outcome.

‘This appears to be in contrast with your request for greater positive engagement and co-operation on the Hospital project.

‘There appears to be a lack of clarity about the definition of what constitutes interference with Parish land. I would, however, like to move forward with a constructive request that enables us to meet the will of the Assembly.’

Senator Farnham added: ‘I hope you also appreciate and understand my position, on behalf of the Government and the Our Hospital project, of the need to progress this publicly important scheme for the benefit of future generations of Islanders.’

Mr Crowcroft said that the ‘unauthorised work’ was against the wishes of St Helier parishioners and accepted that the project team would not be able to complete the designs if they could not carry out drawings and markings on parish land.

Last month, a St Helier parish assembly voted on a requête – an ancient legal device to call an assembly – which temporarily blocks the sale of parish land and prohibits any construction work in relation to Westmount Road, which is the approved access route for the new hospital at Overdale, until further details were provided.

Advocate Olaf Blakeley, who lodged the requête and encouraged parishioners to vote in favour of it, said that agents of the Our Hospital Project Team had entered parish land without notice and carried out unauthorised work, which included spray-painting markings on parish property.

These markings allegedly included some in the sloped woodland area of Westmount, which has not been approved by the States as land available to the hospital development.

Mr Crowcroft said it would be reasonable to allow Deputy Chief Minister Lyndon Farnham, who is political lead for the hospital project, and the Our Hospital Project Team to carry out the necessary work in order to complete the design of the access road, but stressed that his hands were tied.

‘I am legally bound by the requête and so whilst it may be reasonable, it is not legal,’ he said.

‘However, details and designs of the access road will be difficult and inaccurate if they cannot measure or mark out anything. He [Senator Farnham] will not be able to satisfy the needs of the parish without undertaking these drawings or markings.’

Mr Crowcroft, who has written to Senator Farnham to remind him that he cannot interfere with parish land, said the current situation left both sides in a ‘stalemate’.

‘The only way to overcome this would be for Senator Farnham to seek permission for the work from the parish assembly.

‘He could spell out everything he needs to do for them and detail each bit of work that needs to be done and then the parish can take a view on it.’

Meanwhile, Mr Blakeley said the hospital project team had now made formal requests to carry out work, which would include taking core samples, on parish land. He said the requests had been refused by the parish.

He added: ‘The flagrant disregard of the will and decisions of the parishioners by Senator Farnham and his project team is a clear continuation of the unacceptable conduct of a disrespectful government.

‘At the assembly, parishioners made their feelings very clear regarding the lack of transparency with the current government and the widespread mistrust of ministers and those involved in the project.’

Mr Blakeley said the Our Hospital team’s reputation was at an ‘all-time low’.

‘Whereas previously, parishioners and other members of the public suspected Senator Farnham and his team could not be trusted, they should now know that is true in light of the team’s decision to enter and interfere with parish land, knowing they were prohibited from doing so and deciding not to seek permission to do so.’

Mr Blakeley said that Senator Farnham had failed to accept his invitation to a debate during a live broadcast.

‘His refusal to engage can only serve to further increase feelings about the lack of transparency and the absence of trust.’

Top Stories

More From The Jersey Evening Post

UK & International News