Town schools ‘burst at seams in outdated buildings’

ST Helier schools risk becoming overcrowded unless more ‘forward thinking’ is shown when planning and building new homes, the former Children’s and Housing Minister has said.

Senator Sam Mézec. Picture: ROB CURRIE. (30741058)
Senator Sam Mézec. Picture: ROB CURRIE. (30741058)

Senator Sam Mézec was responding to proposals put forward by the States of Jersey Development Company and architect firm FCBStudios to build 150 ‘sustainable’ one-, two- and three-bedroom units on South Hill.

Children’s Commissioner Deborah McMillan has also expressed concern over ‘outdated’ school facilities in town becoming overcrowded, following debate over the future use of the former police headquarters in Rouge Bouillon.

Senator Mézec said: ‘I am extremely concerned about the lack of forward thinking on school places for the children who will end up living in town in the hundreds of new homes planned. I am aware of families in town who do not get their children into the nearest school because of a high demand for places, and so have to take their children out of town in cars, contributing to traffic and pollution.’

He added: ‘This should be a priority to deal with, because of the impact it will have on children, but also the parents whose morning routines are made so much more difficult when juggling taking their children to school through traffic and then getting back to work in town.’

Senator Mézec also said that none of the homes built within the proposed South Hill development should be sold to investors to help address the ‘huge demand’ for homes for first-time buyers. In February, the Senator successfully persuaded the States Assembly to block foreign buy-to-let investors from purchasing property at a proposed development on the Waterfront that is also being developed by the JDC.

Meanwhile, St Helier Constable Simon Crowcroft has said he understands that the majority of new homes need to be built in town, but that additional amenities and green spaces should be introduced to accommodate them (Full story: Page 7).

Last year, the head teacher of Rouge Bouillon School, Russell Price, wrote to the Public Accounts Committee raising concerns over the state of the facility and its lack of adequate space. The future of the former police headquarters in Rouge Bouillon became a topic of debate after Mr Price suggested that Rouge Bouillon School could use it for expansion. However, the director-general for the Justice and Home Affairs Department, Julian Blazeby, said during a Scrutiny panel hearing this week that the site could be used to accommodate additional emergency services instead.

On Twitter yesterday, Mrs McMillan said: ‘Lovely new schools in the rural parishes whilst our town schools burst at the seams in outdated buildings.’

Children's commissioner Deborah McMillan. Picture: DAVID FERGUSON. (30735244)

When asked what he thought about the commissioner’s comments, Senator Mézec added: ‘The two main schools in the town basin, Rouge Bouillon and Springfield, need support to improve their buildings and facilities, so I am very disappointed that it appears to now be a done deal that the old police station site will not be used for education, given it is in a perfect location for the school.’

In a statement, Assistant Education Minister Scott Wickenden said: ‘Discussions about the use of the former police headquarters site are ongoing.

‘As part of the options appraisal, colleagues in the Departments for Infrastructure, Housing and Environment and Children, Young People, Education and Skills are assessing the future site requirements for Rouge Bouillon as well as requirements for schools within St Helier.’

He added: ‘The recommendations of this review will be considered by ministers. This will enable the site to be used for the greatest benefit.’

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