A GENERAL hospital split between two sites – which would minimise damage to the environment at Westmount – should return to the political agenda, according to the joint president of the Association of Jersey Architects.
Mike Waddington has called for Chief Minister-designate Kristina Moore to include in her 100-day plan a ‘quick study’ on the viability of resurrecting the previous vision of a facility whose functions would be divided between Overdale and the current Gloucester Street site.
‘That’s something we would welcome, for sure,’ he said, arguing that such an arrangement would reduce the need for a large building on the hill above town – an issue which was raised during the public planning inquiry hearings that took place earlier this year.
The idea of a dual-site hospital was initially considered but discarded because of concerns about the practicalities of operating from two locations.
However, Mr Waddington said that it afforded the obvious solution to his belief that the current scheme for Overdale was ‘far too big for the site’.
‘There could still be an acute hospital at Gloucester Street supplemented by a smaller scheme at Overdale. The loss of the current hospital building as a community building is a loss to St Helier because people regularly pop in to collect prescriptions and for other things,’ he said.
Mr Waddington added that he believed it would soon become apparent that the true cost of the new hospital at Overdale would significantly exceed the existing £804 million budget agreed by the previous States Assembly.
He said that the housing crisis and the plans for the new hospital were the two issues which had featured most prominently at the AJA’s recent meetings, and that he hoped the new political landscape might be conducive to a more sympathetic approach to the environment.
Deputy Moore has indicated that the hospital project might require a rethink.
Speaking ahead of her election as Chief Minister, she said: ‘There is no hiding from the fact that we do need to deliver a new building or buildings within which those people can work safely. The economic situation globally has changed drastically since the planning application was submitted in August last year and so, if nothing else, that needs reconsidering. I consider that there are many different ways of approaching the scheme but it does require professional input.’
And during the debate that ultimately led to her election as Chief Minister last week, she committed to a ‘brief review’ of the project, adding that she intended to appoint a ‘lead minister for this important project’.
Mr Waddington said: ‘There will be people who say that we have already spent too much on Overdale to think again about the approach but we would immediately be saving £50 million on highways.’
On the subject of the housing crisis, Mr Waddington said that he was encouraged that the new government appeared likely to see the issue of housing from a holistic point of view, which he said should involve swift consideration of the potential of States-owned sites such as St Saviour’s Hospital and the current Social Security building when the government offices are relocated.
Following its 60th-anniversary celebrations last year, the AJA has been seeking greater engagement with the government, offering to take part in workshops with the Planning Committee to help raise more general matters of principle affecting the design of buildings and their contribution to the environment.
It has also announced a programme of public talks which Mr Waddington said he hoped might also attract increased interest on the part of States Members.
‘I am really excited about the new political line-up,’ he said