The Planning and Environment Minister has approved a planning application for the first office block to be built as part of the Esplanade Quarter.
However that approval is subject to a Planning Obligation Agreement to secure a package of highways and transport measures requested by Transport and Technical Services, and is subject to more than 30 planning conditions.
The principal planning condition is for the Jersey Development Company to provide the Minister with a phasing plan, showing the timing of the major infrastructure work needed to enable the later phases of the Masterplan. These include the sinking of La Route de la Liberation and the provision of public amenity spaces.
The matter which really concerns me is the sinking of La Route de la Liberation.
This is the question asked by Deputy Baudains of Deputy Guy de Faye back in July 2008, which has probably been forgotten, and quietly swept away into a dusty filing cabinet somewhere; but it is in Hansard, and you can read it for yourself.
Question: With regard to the proposed sunken road at the Esplanade Quarter, would the Minister advise whether the annual maintenance and running cost of the fume extraction equipment is budgeted for within the suggested £500,000 annual spend, and would he further advise whether the fumes will be filtered before release into the atmosphere and, if so, the annual cost of so doing? Would the Minister further advise precisely where, and what height, the fumes will be released?
Answer: The estimated energy and routine maintenance costs for the tunnel ventilation plant are included in the suggested figure of £500,000 per annum for the total operating costs for the tunnel. There are no plans to filter the air exhausted from the tunnel. The pollution extract system will move the air through the tunnel prior to it being discharged at the tunnel portals. The air will not be filtered prior to discharge.
The key fact here is the cost - in 2008 - of half a million pounds for maintenance of the tunnel, once it is complete. This will surely be considerably more now, and this is a cost in perpetuity - something for all future generations to pay. It doesn't just occur in the question - it's in the original proposition notes as well.
In this time of cutbacks, you would think that States Members might just think again before going full steam ahead with that kind of project, one which would be considerably more costly than the steam clock.
Back in early 2008, when the plans were being discussed, we were still very much within the halcyon days of spend, spend spend - profligate States spending, and the £500,00 maintenance was passed by on the nod. I don't think we can afford that kind of "money no object attitude". The Masterplan was devised for a booming economy, not a slump.
We have to fund funds for a new police Station, a new hospital, and yet we are planning on removing a perfectly adequate road and replacing it by a tunnel which costs half a million pounds to maintain. It gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "sinking fund".
The Police HQ and the hospital are capital spends which give something back for the community. Quite what a sinking a road does apart from fulfilling some technocratic dream is unclear. Sustainable is a word which is often bandied about, but surely spending at least £500,000 per annum on maintenance is not sustainable in the current economic climate. It is time to call a halt!
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