NICKY Westwood’s grandmother Dulcie Le Quesne could name any Jersey plant in Latin, her mother was one of the first junior members of the Société Jersiaise and her brother was curator of archaeology at La Hougue Bie in the 1980s.
These are good credentials for any president of the Société and if her coronation earlier this year was a trifle unconventional – she took over mid-term when Alastair Best elected to stand down and, during Covid-19, was appointed by online gathering – she has already given every impression of confidence in the role.
On appointment, she declared resolutely that the Société would not shy away from taking a public position on matters affecting the environment. To prove it, a matter of weeks later, they issued an impact report to States Members on hospital proposals affecting the historic Westmount.
‘We were aware that old buildings were being ignored; they were being delisted, or there was a refusal to list them even when we proved they had very ancient origins which were being ignored. It was becoming increasingly frustrating.
‘And you wonder with things like the National Park if that’s going to be another toothless tiger. Is it that boundaries will be set and then just happily moved due to circumstances? I find that frustrating and worrying, and I think a lot of people do. The Société Jersiaise more recently has tended not to be political or get involved but, in the past, they have made statements. I don’t see any reason not to present a fair case.’
She stresses that the report on Westmount was, above all, a balanced one, an approach which will characterise their involvement in the future. ‘It’s not about tying ourselves to trees; it’s about standing up and being counted over these issues,’ she adds, noting the contribution that the Société’s new vice-president, Stuart Fell, has made to the research into the historical background.
Environment Minister John Young has already announced his desire to change the Planning Law to give environmental organisations formal status as consultees in planning applications affecting listed sites. You sense that the Société would be ready and waiting – they already have their eye on the skatepark plans at South Hill and the redevelopment of Ann Street.
These are matters of importance to a person who, although brought up in the UK, Africa and the Middle East, would come to the Island on holiday to stay with her grandparents before she moved to settle in Jersey in her 20s when her first daughter was born. She returned to the UK, remarried and had her second daughter before family circumstances brought her back again in 2008. She was to stay.
‘At some point, after about two years, it suddenly dawned on me that I was living in the only place I ever wanted to live in again, and so I joined the Société. It was what we did,’ she said with a smile.