Senator Lyndon Farnham has been told he should resign as head of the new hospital project after St. Helier parishioners overwhelmingly rejected a second attempt to win their support for a 'super highway' access route.
Four months after a parish assembly halted survey work on Westmount Road until it had received adequate information on its proposed design, the Our Hospital team went back to the parish to ask if it now had the information it needed to back the proposal.
The resounding answer was ‘no’.
165 parishioners told planners and politicians to go back to the drawing board while those happy with the proposals barely reached double figures.
This has prompted the man whose 'requête' prompted the initial assembly, Advocate Olaf Blakeley, to call for Senator Farnham to step aside.
Speaking after the vote, he said: “This result is a very clear vote of no confidence by the public in Senator Farnham and the hospital project team generally.
“Senator Farnham requested this assembly; he clearly thought there was sufficient information for the public to agree to the road development and this demonstrates he has lost his way.
Advocate Olaf Blakeley: "The meeting was a vote of no confidence in Senator Farnham".
He continued: “The information was severely lacking and that should have been obvious to him but was not. It should have also been obvious to the professional advisors but was not.
“It is hard to believe that so much public money is spent on advisers and PR consultants and marketing by the hospital project and yet the result is the shambolic presentation witnessed at the Town Hall.
“It’s time for Senator Farnham to be replaced by someone else. The whole hospital project needs rethinking and that requires a fresh leader.
“He is too entrenched now to view matters objectively and that could not have been seen more clearly than by the example of his misguided decision to call the assembly and put such misplaced propositions to the public."
Pictured: A plan showing the current road on the left (in grey) and how the new road will look. It will be 10.7m wide, which includes a 2m pedestrian lane and a 2m cycle path.
In response, Senator Farnham said he would not resign.
"It is regrettable that Advocate Blakeley has chosen to criticise the process from the outset and not provide any meaningful proposals or suggestions to assist with the project," he said.
"We called the assembly in response to the earlier parish meeting which asked us to come back with more information. As we have reached the final concept design, we thought this was an opportune time to return.
"This is the mid-way stage and a lot more detailed information is yet to be produced. It was clear from last night that parishioners need to see more and we will return when we have it. From the outset, we have shared all the information when it arrives, and that will continue."
During the assembly, which began with presentations by members of the Our Hospital team, not one parishioner who spoke said they had enough information to support the plan.
@StHelierJsy Parish Assembly has voted by a large majority that the Parish has not received sufficient details about the impact of the proposed new hospital (165 votes to 11) and that it is not satisfied with the proposals for the new access arrangements (165 votes to 10).— Simon Crowcroft (@SimonCrowcroft) June 9, 2021
Some, like Westmount resident Steve Beddoe, asked why a one-way system up Westmount Road had been dismissed, while others, including Norman de la Haye, argued that the new hospital was simply in the wrong place.
Concerning the controversial loss of trees around the park, the assembly was told by the project team that more trees will be planted than those lost.
Advocate Graham Boxall said: “I would like to see a clearer picture of the effect of the new highway on the People’s Park and specifically the proportion - including the play area, bowling green and Gallows area - that will be lost.
“The new hospital will be an unacceptable intrusion on the skyline; and besides confiscation of land, it will lead to a new highway with concrete pillars and arches that will be an ugly addition into the natural backdrop of the People’s Park.
“It is clear that Westmount Road has quite a long way to go in terms of design and Senator Farnham himself has said we are not seeing the full picture yet.
“Is that not an admission that the call for this vote is premature?”
Asked before the vote what would happen if St. Helier - which owns most of the land on which Westmount Road runs - failed to support the access plans, the Government said the project team would continue with its plans.
Director General of the Infrastructure, Housing and Environment Department Andy Scate told the assembly that the appropriate time for people to air their views would be during the public inquiry that will accompany the formal planning application to realign the road.
By then, he said, parishioners would have all the details they needed, including a green travel plan, which a number had asked for during the meeting.
St. Helier's refusal to support the realignment of the road, based on current plans, means that - in theory - an earlier assembly decision that no member of the Our Hospital team can access parish land still stands.
However, the parish has since allowed engineers to carry out preliminary work by issuing permits under events and public parks' legislation.
Senator Farnham said that the project team had the permits they needed so last night's decision would not have an impact.
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