FAILED attempts to build Jersey’s new hospital over the past decade have cost almost £100 million – without a single brick having been laid – Deputy Lyndon Farnham has said.
And the former political lead for the latest project said that further delays resulting from abandoned plans to build the £804 million hospital at Overdale could potentially cost the taxpayer ‘hundreds of millions’ more.
The scheme has been paused while Infrastructure Minister Tom Binet – who has branded the current proposals ‘no longer feasible’ – conducts a review looking at alternative options, reopening the possibility of a dual-site facility split between Overdale and the existing Hospital site.
Taking into account around £20 million in land acquisition, Deputy Farnham said the project’s total expenditure since 2012 was ‘nearing £100 million’.
‘This includes around £40 million for previous phases and a similar amount for the Our Hospital project [the most recent version, which was overseen by Deputy Farnham] mostly spent on design works and applications,’ he added.
‘If the project was to be paused at this stage, it would be the biggest political misjudgment in modern times. The cost is only going to go up,’ he continued.
Towards the end of his term in office, former Environment Minister John Young gave planning approval for the £804 million facility to be built at Overdale .
Deputy Farnham said: ‘The irony is that, had we been allowed to secure the bond and sign the contract, we could have started building by now. The actions of Deputy [Kristina] Moore and Deputy Binet – particularly Deputy Moore’s efforts to delay the project through her scrutiny role in the previous government – mean that whatever solution we end up with now will cost us more and provide a lot less for our money.’
He added that further delays could potentially cost the taxpayer ‘hundreds of millions’ and that he did not have ‘a lot of confidence’ in Deputy Binet’s review.
‘We followed the correct political procedure, approving the location, access and budget through the Assembly and – for the first time – gained approval for a planning application following a public inquiry. However, instead of bringing a proposition forward, Deputy Moore – who has always been opposed to the current scheme – has chosen to follow this review process.’
Responding to Deputy Farnham’s comments, Deputy Moore said: ‘We were certainly doing our job [through scrutiny] and raised a number of concerns that were valid and rational arguments.
‘Yes, the project has planning permission but it is neither appropriate nor affordable for the Island,’ she added, saying that bond market rates and building costs had risen significantly.
‘Whatever happens as a result of the review, this Assembly will have to make choices on behalf of the public to achieve a project that is deliverable. We are very aware that the first job will be to share the results and findings of the review with scrutiny, which we have agreed to do.’
She also said it was ‘highly likely’ that a proposition would come before the Assembly and would be properly scrutinised prior to debate.
Deputy Binet said: ‘I would remind him [Deputy Farnham] that this is the view of the Council of Ministers. None of these decisions have been taken in isolation. We are dealing with very difficult changes in circumstances.’
Work to build around 100 new flats in Kensington Place – next to the Gloucester Street hospital site – pending the outcome of the review.
Deputy Farnham said: ‘I will be lodging questions on this matter because there will almost certainly be financial compensation paid to the developer.
‘Given the drive to build new homes, it is also disappointing that one of this government’s first actions is to stop an important development, and I would be interested to know what our Housing Minister [David Warr] thinks of this decision.’
Responding that there were still ‘hundreds of homes under development’, Deputy Warr said: ‘Given where we are with the hospital, we have to offer some compromises.’