CREATING a country park on the outskirts of St Helier will be included in the Bridging Island Plan – despite concerns about the impact it could have on the ‘home-grown’ Jersey Hemp business.
If the overall plan is approved, Warwick Farm will be designated for community use, and a planning application to turn it into a park will be lodged in the next three years.
It was announced last year that Jersey Bowling Club would be relocated to Warwick Farm to make way for the access route to the proposed new hospital at Overdale, with St Helier Constable Simon Crowcroft saying the club would be the ‘linchpin’ of the country park, which could also include mountain bike trails, horse-riding routes and possibly a zipwire.
However, Deputy Kirsten Morel lodged an amendment to remove the country park from the plan in order to support Jersey Hemp, which he said had been thrown ‘into a state of insecurity and a state of uncertainty’ regarding their lease on the site.
The Warwick Farm-based firm is ‘an incredible, home-grown business’, according to Deputy Morel, who added that ‘jobs will be lost, investment will be lost’.
Jersey Hemp creates CBD oil and hemp protein powder among other products.
‘The Island Plan does not cater adequately to the economic needs of the Island,’ said Deputy Morel, who highlighted in his amendment that there was ‘little to no improvement in the provision of employment land in the Island’ which was catching businesses out.
‘The real concern is the message this sends to Jersey businesses,’ said Deputy Morel.
‘It is not because I do not want a country park, it is because I want an economy that succeeds.’
The idea of a country park is not new, and its inclusion in the Bridging Island Plan was welcomed by Mr Crowcroft, whose amendment for a park was overwhelmingly backed by States Members during the 2011 Island Plan debate.
The exact size of the planned park is not fully clear.
Mr Crowcroft disputed Deputy Morel’s claim that the business had not been consulted, and said he had been up to visit Jersey Hemp and ‘marvelled about what they are doing’.
‘I want them to continue doing it, but I don’t want them to do it there,’ said Mr Crowcroft.
The Constable said it was a States-owned site and ‘should be used to maximum public benefit’, arguing that the park would serve the entire urban population.
Mr Crowcroft said he hoped the park would eventually grow to be a ‘horseshoe around the urban area of St Helier and St Saviour’.
Environment Minister John Young said it was ‘such a shame we get in this pickle. We really ought to accommodate both’.
Chief Minister John Le Fondré said he would not be supporting Deputy Morel’s amendment, as it would prioritise land use for a business over any other use.
‘I can really see the benefit that would come to the residents of St Helier to have this access on their doorstep,’ said Senator Le Fondré.
Assistant Treasury Minister Lindsay Ash echoed Deputy Morel’s concerns that the Assembly had an ‘anti-business agenda’.
Despite opposing Deputy Morel’s amendment by 30 to 14, Members called for flexibility regarding Jersey Hemp’s lease and relocation, as the park waslikely to take years to be realised.
Members then went on to support an amendment from Mr Crowcroft by 33 to nine calling for assurances that the park would be established within the three-year timeframe of the plan.
The Constable said that waiting for ‘three Island Plans was a bit slow’ if he was forced to propose the park in 2011, 2022 and again after 2025.