Monday, 20 January 2014

Odds and Ends

Is it time to make Rob Duhamel a Grade Two Heritage Listing?

The 1937-built white arrivals building at Jersey Airport has been awarded a Grade Two heritage listing. But the listing is at odds with the airport authorities who have applied to demolish it. They have cited a requirement to comply with current safety standards. (1)

Rather like houses, this is another example where historic value is taking precedence over function. The whole airport has been restructured internally considerably, so I'm at a loss quite what is now being frozen in amber. But precisely what heritage function will this serve? Are there to be trips out to see the arrivals hall, pointing out its unique architecture? If it is important to retain a record of it, why not do that, by making a comprehensive photographic archive of the site?

I heard Christopher Scholfield talking this morning about its unique character, and that we should make more of it when tourists arrive, but if changes are not made, they will be stuck in fog more often because of safety, and I'm sure when they do make it to Jersey, after delays in UK airports, they will not be in much of a mood to ponder the marvels of 1937 architecture. And why did the BBC debate centre on safety in terms of "fireballs" anyway? The safety aspect means less flights possible on foggy days, which is bad for tourists and islanders alike. Safety means you don't fly; not that you fly anyway regardless!

It is a building from 1937, not something of a Victorian or Edwardian masterpiece; it was designed pretty well to be functional, as an arrivals hall. And clearly the planners who decided this would like to prioritise heritage over passenger safety. I can think of no other period in Jersey  history which has such a fixation with ossifying the past without any common sense applying.

Perhaps Jersey folk were too ready to knock down old buildings and structures in the past, as the incomplete dolmens across the Island bears witness. But churches were adapted, changed, built onto, because their function was for a congregating people to worship, and what we have today is a historical evolution. It is only today that we also realise the historical value, but if we applied today's standards to the original buildings, all we would have in each case would be 12 small squalid little chapels, probably damp, and certainly neglected in favour of larger buildings which served the function for which the original chapel was intended.

And I'm not impressed by the Heritage lobby's acting to try and prevent wheelchair access to church buildings. There was a refusal to allow wheelchair access to a Methodist church in St Martin, thankfully overturned. The founder of Christianity, if he was alive today, would have had some rather trenchant remarks to make about that refusal. I seem to remember he was not particularly impressed when his disciples marveled over the heritage aspects of the Temple in Jerusalem.

No Excuses Please

"Preparations for Jersey's Historic Abuse Inquiry are well underway, as the Committee gears up to start the public hearings in May. Committee members are interviewing lawyers in London this week in order to appoint an independent legal team to support the Inquiry."

Carrie Modral said: "Some of the information held on abuse victims such as psychiatric reports, police reports and obviously because of the data protection law they're saying they're going to have to heavily redact these documents and in fact I've been told it probably won't be worth giving half these documents across."

Data Protection Commissioner Emma Martins said they will not get in the way of the Commission.  Emma Martins said:"For the avoidance of doubt, the work of the Committee will not be fettered by the Data Protection Law - there will be nothing in the law stopping individuals from giving information to the Committee or organisations such as the police force from handing over records. "To be clear, no one will be able to claim that the Data Protection Law prohibits them from answering questions put by the Committee or to avoid handing over whatever the Committee wants to see." (2)

I was very hearted to read that quotation about Data Protection from Emma Martins as I had concerns like Carrie about Data Protection being used to block documents. The Inquiry should have access to all documents. Obviously how much of that may enter the public domain in their report might well depend on matters such as Data Protection, but they should have no restrictions whatsoever, either from Data Protection, or on some spurious legal grounds, for not having sight of all the relevant material.

Public inquiries can go several ways. They can help get at the truth, or they can become a convenient way to stifle a controversial issue. In the UK, the Hutton inquiry, which ended in emasculating the BBC, was very much seen as a whitewash, not least by Private Eye, which argued that the terms of reference and the way the inquiry followed them, could only lead to one outcome - namely, to exonerate the government and silence critics.

On the other hand, some inquiries have drawn attention to important issues which might otherwise have been neglected, such as the Scarman inquiry, which was independent and forthright in its evidenced critique of the police "stop and search", and the endemic culture of racism which existed with the force.

What Jersey needs is less Hutton, more Scarman, in how the inquiry gets to the truth, and a free reign to access all documents the inquiry deems relevant, and an independence that does not bow to any agenda.

The New Gravy Train

The new development at the Waterfront, in the original Hopkins Masterplan, was not going to cost a penny of taxpayers money, but now we have been told the development of "Block 1" will involve creation of a new underground car park to replace those lost to the office development.

The cost of that will, of course, be born by the taxpayer, as will the removal of any toxic ash or like materials from the site. The underground car park, we are told, will have the same number of spaces as before, which overlooks the question of where all the office workers are going to park.

Ever since it began, the Waterfront has leached money away from the taxpayer in one way or another, and this new development looks to be no exception. Once, the trains came along the coast not far from where the development will be, but now, for anyone getting those lucrative contracts, it will be a new gravy train, and who knows where it will end. Unlike the old railway service, the new gravy train can always be bailed out by the Treasury Minister from his seemingly bottomless contingency fund.

CCTV in Jersey

"A knife-wielding raider threatened staff at a Co-op in Jersey and demanded cash from the till. The man went into the Co-op in Val Plaisant, St Helier, at about 08:00 GMT but when told there was very little cash, "panicked" and fled, said the manager. Manager Lloyd Hotton said: "It could have been much nastier. I'm just glad no-one was hurt."(3)

The CCTV in this incident, as seen in a photo, reveals very little, showing that whatever recommendations the Scrutiny Panel comes out with, it is largely hypothetical unless better imaging is available. The clothing is patterned, but looks as if it is well-worn and may have been bought second hand; he also looks as if he is padded out to look more stocky than he actually is. Apart from the fact that we know that he is white, and what his height and shoe size are, there is very little else that can be discerned from the image.

And Finally... Placenames

I rather like the letter from Frank le Maistre in 1980 on place names, seen here. "Hands off our ancient and venerable place names", he concludes, after warning against removing the definite article.


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