Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Building no 4 Esplanade Quarter

I've just penned an objection to the plans - 'Building no 4' Esplanade Quarter P/2012/1141
(Applicant: States of Jersey Development Company)

This is what I wrote in my submission:
1: While I appreciate that office buildings are geared to functionality, there should also be aesthetic considerations relating to the outside of the buildings. That is a matter of subjective judgement, but I think to would be very difficult to justify the architectural merits of the glass monolithic cubes, of the kind proposed here and in following ones. They are bland, and touches of decoration to glass panels will not hide that fact. As something which is visible to tourists, or to visiting businessmen, do we really want an architectural statement of that kind?
2: The plans do not show that the old Victorian sea wall which runs along the current Esplanade car park will be preserved, and from the picture shown, it will be removed. This is a legacy of historic sea frontage, and as part of proposed new buildings is to provide a percentage for art, I would suggest that this would be a thoroughly worthwhile project. It could also be used in promotions as a statement that while Jersey has modernised for 21st century business, it has built on solid foundations laid down our ancestors. In this respect, I would note a recent interview Tim Nash in the Jersey Evening Post regarding China highlighted the fact that the Chinese culture (and businessmen) pay significant attention to historical legacy as an indicator of durability. As Jersey is planning on opening up markets to China, retaining a Victorian sea wall would provide an excellent marketing opportunity.

This blog gives me the opportunity to explore the matter of China in more detail.

It is easy to think that the Chinese might not be bothered with a Victorian sea wall. But the JEP interview with Tim Nash on 22nd April with Ramsay Cudlipp opened my eyes to how different their culture and values are.
"Studying China's history is extremely important in communicating with them. At Oxford we studied the ancient as well as the modern, and it helped because the challenge is often how you find common ground with one another. At one level, Jersey and China are at Polar opposites. China is massive and Jersey is tiny. People in China also laughed when I told them that Jersey had a population of 90,000 because to them 90,000 people is just a full football stadium, it's just an event, it is not a country or a place to live."
"So it is all about finding common ground, and in China, whether you are speaking to a taxi driver, a cleaner, a university professor, or a government official, one thing that will come out in conversation is that China has 5,000 years of history. It is deeply ingrained in the Chinese psyche that they stand 5,000 years downstream of history - which is strength and a weakness. It adds weight, but there can be certain fatalism about it."
So - as Tim explains - telling people in China that Jersey is an important offshore finance centre is a joke; Jersey is so small, so how can it possibly register? And yet if Jersey's past is mentioned, looking back to the Middle Ages and before, Tim noted that this suddenly commanded respect. It is not intuitive to us, because we don't have a tradition of seeing history in that light, and seeing the present value through the filter of times gone by. As Tim Nash comments:
"It would never occur to someone in Jersey finance or agriculture to start with that, but to people in China that is 5,000 years of history and that's worth something. You go from being the joke in the room to being the person who comes from somewhere that has something in common with them".
So there is a very good case for saying that a Victorian sea wall, incorporated into plans for modern office buildings, shows that Jersey is proud of its history, and that the new and old can co-exist; it's the kind of thinking that the Chinese would certainly respect, and as we look increasingly to the Far East for financial opportunities for Jersey business, that is something the planners would do well to remember. As Tim Nash reminds us, that's one link going back in our history, which is the kind of thinking valued highly in Chinese culture.

Last Saturday, I put up a poem to express what it means to lose a sea wall like this; it can be read at:

If you want to see some old pictures of that wall, click here

If you agree with my arguments, or my sentiments, please help.

What can you do? Put an objection in to the plans.

Denise Carroll commented on Facebook that "If people don't do this and start standing up for themselves our once peaceful and beautiful Island will be lost forever and people will have nobody to blame but themselves."

And Save Our Shoreline have put up this easy to use guide:

HOW TO OBJECT TO 'Building no 4' Esplanade Quarter P/2012/1141

The applicants (the States of Jersey Development Company) wish to destroy the old sea wall instead of incorporating it into the design which would, we feel, be a sympathetic move to protect our heritage (and also fulfil the percentage of Art component) rather than import a Russian artist who resides in Wales to make opaque corporate glass panels on the ground floor. No doubt he is good at it but we doubt the design will reflect our heritage in the way that retaining and enhancing our old granite sea wall will.

We have been asked several times this afternoon how you can object so we have prepared an easy guide to cut out the hassle. So if you agree with our last post, please do! Time is short so please if you can send your objection in either in your own words or if you agree with the letter below use that.


BY POST: Print the letter below, sign & date and send to the address.

BY EMAIL: send your letter or a copy of the letter in the picture (just send the picture as an attachment by email - if you aren't sure how to do that, print it and attach the scan to: John Nicholson, Senior Planner J.Nicholson@gov.je
ON LINE: the link is found from here:

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