An historic publicly owned building in the Royal Square should house a reception and meeting rooms for States Members, according to one politician, who thinks he has the best solution for the empty and increasingly tired-looking Piquet House.
Housing Minister Deputy Russell Labey thinks the building should be “brought into the family of the parliamentary group of buildings” and be a resource for politicians to meet their constituents.
However, in the medium term, it is being used by the Justice and Home Affairs Department to provide space for victim support.
In 2019, it was announced that the building would become a Family Court Centre and that year’s Government Plan budgeted £1m to restore and refurbish the building in 2021 and allocated a further £779,000 for next year.
However, this June it was announced that the Family Court was moving to the Parade and would not be moving to Piquet House.
A spokesperson from Infrastructure, Housing and Environment said: “Piquet House is no longer being considered for use as a family court, its medium term use is being planned by the Justice and Home Affairs Department to service an emerging requirement in victim support.
“Beyond this, any further requests to use the building will be considered.”
The fate of the listed former military police station is as uncertain as the threat of Napoleonic invasion it was built to face.
Pictured: A plaque on the side of the building explaining Piquet House’s military history.
In 2012, the Government of the day decided to sell it off as it had “no identified future operational use”.
Two years later, after marketing the 11 Royal Square property, then Assistant Treasury Minister Eddie Noel recommended that it was sold to the highest bidder.
However, Deputy John Young, then a backbencher, convinced Members to support his proposal to stop the sale and tell the Government to find alternative uses of the building, including possibly leasing it to community organisations.
Deputy Labey proposed his idea for Piquet House in the States this week:
“I would like to see Piquet House brought into the family of the parliamentary group of buildings and be a resource for members of the Assembly to meet their constituents in a place that has windows, that has a reception, meeting rooms, both one-to-one and upstairs with a disabled lift, rooms fully kitted out for Scrutiny hearings, the planning committee etc.” he said.
“I believe now it is not going to be used for the courts and I have asked PPC to put in a strong bid with Jersey Property Holdings so we can use Piquet House as a resource because it is ideally placed for that.”
But Deputy Labey’s proposal has irked one local businessmen, who says he had a credible plan to convert Piquet House into meeting rooms a decade ago, but was ignored.
Pictured: Housing Minister Russell Labey wants Piquet House to be turned into meeting rooms for States Members.
Ian King told Express: “I have proposed this to Ministers three times in the past. I first offered to buy Piquet House and least it back to the States and then, when that didn’t get a positive response, I was quite prepared to take a long-term lease myself.
“I also had fully funded plans to develop at La Folie Inn into a hotel and the old hospital at Elizabeth Castle into visitor accommodation but each time they hit dead ends. But now there are redevelopment plans, which I have no doubt will cost a lot more than if my proposals had been accepted.
“Of course, I would have made some money from these projects but the Government would have saved a lot of money too; it was to the financial benefit of all.
“The private sector is not the enemy and the Government should welcome investment, especially as it is currently reviewing its estate and vacant properties.”
Piquet House was originally built by the military in 1803 as a result of a States decision the previous year, which proposed that a detachment of soldiers from the garrison at Fort Regent should be on hand to help the Honorary Police in times of trouble.
This would have been during the Napoleonic Wars, when Jersey privateering against French shipping was rife, and St. Helier was populated with a large military and naval presence.
Pictured: The sundial on the side of the building was installed in protest at the move to adopt GMT in Jersey.
After the defeat of Napoleon, the building continued as a picket house until 1834, when it became a lock-up for a time until the Army Paymaster used it to pay out pensions to retired soldiers.
It then became the office for the Registrar of Births, Marriages and Deaths until 1872. From 1887, the army used it as a picket house once more until 1926.
In Victorian times, a teacher and map-maker called Eli Le Gros erected the sundial on the southern facade to encourage islanders to set their timepieces by the sundial rather than by Greenwich Mean Time, which was eight minutes ahead.
The island eventually signed up to follow London time in 1898.
In the modern era, for the near future at least, Piquet House will support victims of crime, assault and abuse.
A spokesperson from Justice and Home Affairs said: “The operational move to Piquet House consists of re-locating Victims First Jersey, Jersey Domestic Abuse and staff within Dewberry House Sexual Assault Referral Centre. Dewberry House will remain in place, to continue to provide forensic medicals and for Achieving Best Evidence for victims and witness.
“Currently, Jersey Domestic Abuse Support is located at Police Headquarters and Victims First Jersey is based at Dewberry House offices.
“The move together will promote better working relationships to provide a coordinated response to victims and witness.
“Currently, Dewberry House is not an appropriate space for all of these services. This is a temporary re-location and in due course, when a new SARC/ Child Advocacy Centre is built, all services will be co-located.”
Comments on this story express the views of the commentator only, not Bailiwick Publishing. We are unable to guarantee the accuracy of any of those comments.
Once your comment has been submitted, it won’t appear immediately. There is no need to submit it more than once. Comments are published at the discretion of Bailiwick Publishing, and will include your username.