Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Guest Posting on People's Park as Possible Hospital Site

Today I'm pleased to put up a guest posting taken from the West of Town Community Association Facebook page, and make it available for a wider audience.

People's Park as Possible Hospital Site
by Christian May

As Chairman of the West of Town Community Association and a resident who has spent over 30 years living in various properties overlooking People's Park, I will reiterate now what I have said in today's Jersey Evening Post.

I cannot in any way support the development of a new Hospital on People's Park. I hope that the Council of Ministers and Parish of St Helier will confirm next week that this is NOT an option that is being seriously considered.

People's Park is the heart of our community, and to rip that heart from the people of St Helier, and the Island as a whole, is an idea I find completely abhorrent.

The land that comprises People's Park was gifted to the Parish of St Helier for the enjoyment of the residents and Islanders and is protected by legal covenant which can be found in the Jersey Archive. This is a protection that both Mary Ayling-Phillip and I have sought to apply in the past and remains very much in force. It would take a full Parish Assembly vote or a forced change in legislation by the States Assembly to remove it.

People's Park has sustained Islanders (as allotments) during the Occupation, has seen rapturous celebration of the Liberation, and is a site for concerts, charity events, festivals and funfairs. It is a busy sporting ground, a mecca for sunbathers and a peaceful view for elderly residents and nearby nursery-goers. It is used every day by dog walkers and joggers alike. It simply cannot be replaced.

To countenance building over it would be akin to building on Hyde Park in London. What precedent would this set? Is Howard Davis Park to become public housing? Shall we build offices in Royal Square? No. A line must be drawn!

Whilst I fully understand that a site must be found soon for the new Hospital, I would urge the Council of Ministers to very carefully consider the message that a decision to develop People's Park would send to Islanders. To build on a much-loved piece of public land, whilst other viable sites are available, speaks of a fundamental disconnect with the people they were elected to represent.

I must add that I do NOT support the development of People's Park even if an "alternative public space" is found to replace the park. Any provision of that alternative will likely take decades to become available (if the old General Hospital site is being considered) and will not replace this beautiful peace of natural parkland to which many Islanders have a strong emotional connection.

I hope that all residents, parishioners and Islanders will likewise oppose any development of People's Park. To that end, should it be confirmed that the Park is being considered as a viable option, I will launch an online petition which can be completed at www.savepeoplespark.com. I hope that such a step is not needed and common sense will prevail.

Nonetheless, I want to inform the Health Minister and Council of Ministers, and to reassure all residents and other Islanders, that I will exercise every single legal and political recourse to ensure that any proposed development does not take place.

Christian May

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