James Scott says he has been left ‘scratching his head’ having received what appears to be a final objection to a proposed new 3G facility on unused netball courts adjacent to the athletics track.
The school teacher had launched a public petition in an attempt to push through his plans after the landlords, Jersey Property Holdings, performed a U-turn on an agreed nine-year lease. The reversal followed the uncovering of a long-forgotten land covenant – imposed when the site was gifted to the public in 1961 and one which holds specific conditions relating to the site’s usage, including a right of refusal for neighbouring residents.
In response to the petition, which gathered 2,296 signatures of support, Infrastructure Minister Kevin Lewis and Deputy Hugh Raymond, who holds political responsibility for sport, said Scott’s proposals would break those conditions.
The ministers’ official response – brought as a result of the petition exceeding 1,000 signatures – read: ‘The submitted proposal, which includes the installation of cycle stands, new fencing, playing surface and caged netting around the existing netball courts, would be considered a breach [of the covenant’s conditions].
‘Objections to the planning application have already been submitted by the majority of the beneficiaries of the covenant, it would suggest that the public would be challenged to obtain approval from all of the property owners in respect of amending the restrictions.
‘The Government is aware that this small space needs to be brought back to use and will continue to look at alternative recreational and sporting options for this area.’
Scott said he had hoped to meet the courts’ neighbours to discuss their concerns regarding noise pollution – but admitted he will no longer get to that stage, given the number of hurdles now in play.
‘Any suggestion that putting netting or an upgraded playing surface and bike racks on the site would breach a condition of the gift is nonsensical,’ he said.
‘If you could build facilities on the land for netball in 2015 [floodlights and resurfacing] then why can’t you build them for football?
‘Ministers have said they will continue to look at other sporting options for this area, but if I can’t get my idea passed then who will? I think the area will remain dormant for the foreseeable future and I believe the response from neighbours and the government is against the sport of football and any negative connotations they may have of it.’
He added: ‘I can only assume the reason for the U-turn [on the lease] is that the government was previously unaware of this covenant. If I had known before, that my proposals were unlikely to be passed, then I might not have invested so much time and money into this.
‘I hope this situation highlights the need for sports facilities in the Island. This was never a huge commercial venture but quite simply a community project designed by a local lad with a passion for sport, who wanted to provide a facility for public use.’