Monday, 15 February 2016

Ben Shenton on the Hospital and the People's Park














Below I reprint a comment by Ben Shenton from the JEP (2nd February 2016) in which he makes the very good point that the old hospital site surely has a considerable value. Now for the People's Park option, the figure we have been given includes demolishing the hospital, buying hotels and property in Kensington Place, and the Gas Place site, as well as paying for the People's Park itself.

However, the other sites - Waterfront, Overdale - are lands that are owned by the States (even if part of the Waterfront area may have been nominally ceded for £1 to the States of Jersey Development Company, which certainly should not profit from the States taking it back). The hospital site becomes an asset which can be sold off and the costs set against the costs of the Waterfront or Overdale. This does not appear in any of the calculations, but then the figures are so obscure that we have no idea what they contain.

Moreoever, if there is a problem with loss of housing at the Waterfront, why not let the hospital site be used for that, and given over to Andium Homes to develop. That would solve that problem about a loss of land designated for housing.

On another matter, Andrew Green argues against Simon Crowcroft's proposition that the people should be allowed to decide on all sites. At the same time, the States of Jersey Development Company is submitting plans which essentially would rule out the Waterfront.

Shouldn't there be an embargo on them doing that for the same reason that Andrew Green is arguing against Simon Crowcroft's proposition to remove the People's Park from listed sites? Or does the Ministerial version of democracy only cut one way, in favour of the People's Park?

Ben Shenton on the Hospital and the People's Park
In business if you own an asset, such as a hospital or a school, the financial decision to re-locate or refurbish relies as much on the financial return from the future use of the existing asset as it does on the cost of the new build. Yet our Government has a history of not undertaking this basic and important exercise before deciding to vacate a property for a shiny new building. Look at the unprofessionally managed sites that have lain empty for years such as the old Jersey College for Girls and St Helier Boys schools, and the lack of detail on the proposed use and financial payback of the existing Les Quennevais School.

With the new police station well underway I would have expected to see public consultations and plans well advanced for the use of the existing police station land – ideally building work should commence on vacation. Sadly our Government will probably wait until the old site has been vacated and laid bare before even starting a logical process.

Surely the value of the existing hospital site, a site where development shall be severely restricted by onerous Site of Special Interest restrictions, must have been comprehensively examined as part of the ludicrous £2 million spend on assessing options.

I would therefore expect the States to enlighten the public on exactly how much value can be extracted from this site should the hospital move. To maximise the return, and reduce the net cost of a proposed move, one would envisage building a substantial number of flats housing people whose recreational space requirements would naturally lead to a conclusion that the People’s Park should be retained giving this population influx (police station and hospital redevelopment).

Last year we were being told that the decision to move the Liberation Day celebrations back to the People’s Park was partly due to the historical significance of the area – it was the location of the first celebrations in 1946.

Now we are told that the Park is expendable. When Mr Godfrey gifted the land that is now People’s Park to the Island for use as a ‘promenades public’ he would not have envisaged that the role of Government would change as much as it has.

The significant change was around 5 years ago when the Government decided that they would play at being property developers – in theory maximising the financial profit from the public’s assets (£££ before people).

The question is whether our Developer Government should now be considered as the trusted custodian of OUR parks, gardens, and heritage assets. Is now the time to move the parks into a non-political Heritage Trust - free from the property development influences of both our Government and a Parish led by a very political Constable?

3 comments:

SOS Jersey said...

Tony, both your observations and this of Ben Shenton are as usual absolutely spot on. The Waterfront Site- the subject of our viability study 3 years ago (prior to the site being used by the SoJDC for their 'temporary car park') seemed to tick all the requisite boxes especially as the land can be used by transferring it back for that nominal £1. SoJDC should not profit from it.
The problem of the car park which now sits on the site was not adequately addressed when the four sites were offered up as the only 4 on the list to be considered, that in itself a worry as now we are hearing that the public need to democratically be consulted on all possible island sites! The COM as usual have dug themselves a hole being carried along by UK consultants who have no feel for local issues. Neither does it appear, do the COM! The depth of feeling generated by the public was, we believe, not expected by them.

SOS Jersey said...

Tony, both your observations and this of Ben Shenton are as usual absolutely spot on. The Waterfront Site- the subject of our viability study 3 years ago (prior to the site being used by the SoJDC for their 'temporary car park') seemed to tick all the requisite boxes especially as the land can be used by transferring it back for that nominal £1. SoJDC should not profit from it.
The problem of the car park which now sits on the site was not adequately addressed when the four sites were offered up as the only 4 on the list to be considered, that in itself a worry as now we are hearing that the public need to democratically be consulted on all possible island sites! The COM as usual have dug themselves a hole being carried along by UK consultants who have no feel for local issues. Neither does it appear, do the COM! The depth of feeling generated by the public was, we believe, not expected by them.

James said...

Is now the time to move the parks into a non-political Heritage Trust - free from the property development influences of both our Government and a Parish led by a very political Constable?

No, it isn't. The Constable is accountable to his electors: a trust is not (from what I've seen of it a Jersey trust is accountable to no-one).