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FOCUS: Casino and hotel Fort plans met with a public shrug

FOCUS: Casino and hotel Fort plans met with a public shrug

Friday 01 October 2021

FOCUS: Casino and hotel Fort plans met with a public shrug


Long-discussed ideas for a casino and hotel at Fort Regent drew the least excitement from nearly 2,500 respondents to a survey, in contrast to 'walkways in the sky' and a large performance venue.

The survey was part of a six-week consultation on the Government's latest proposals for regenerating Fort Regent, which were unveiled in June.

Overall, the survey received 2,447 valid responses from a "mix of islanders across broad social demographics", including age, ethnicity and income.

These were described as a "great and representative sample" by researchers 4Insight, who also engaged with six focus groups, and a 'closed online community' with 50 participants.

Those responses were collated and released this week, giving the first indication of public mood around the Government's 'Future Fort' plans...

Which ideas generated the most excitement?

2Future_Fort_Regent.png

Pictured: The future Fort Regent plans are proposed place in two phases over eight years. 

The surveys saw respondents' "excitement" for each idea outlined ranked from 0% (least excited) to 100% (most excited).

The idea in the plans that generated the most excitement in the survey was the Winter Gardens, which would include 'walkways in the sky', featuring water jets, water walls and misters. This idea drew a score of 68%.

This was closely followed by 'The Venue', a flexible space capable of hosting between 500 and 2,500 people, which was given a score of 64%.

The concept of a 'leisure box', cinema and bowling alley received between 45% and 54%.

At the bottom were a casino and hotel, lagging behind with 31% and 29% respectively.

fortregent.JPG

Pictured: The dome would be removed as part of the regeneration plans for the Fort.

The focus groups reflected many of the survey's findings, with "most happy with the different types of gardens proposed", but with "mixed" and "conflicting" opinions on both the hotel and casino.

Similarly, the closed community group also gave a "mixed" response for the hotel, with 34% for, 27% against and 39% unsure, with the perception being that there are already "enough hotels" in Jersey.

The casino also proved divisive within this group, with 40% for, 34% against, 26% unsure, and "reservations about whether there was demand for a casino" voiced.

Cable car vs. lift

Preferences for getting up to the Fort were also analysed.

A cable car from the Waterfront was voted the preferred option for transport up to the new Fort, with just under a third of respondents (32%) choosing the option.

This was closely followed by the option of a car with nearly a quarter of votes (24%), and a lift from Snow Hill getting two in 10 votes (20%) - contrasting this, a motorbike only took 1% of the access vote.

In the closed community group, it received a similar proportion of votes (34%).

Cable Cars

Pictured: Cable cars were voted the preferred option in the focus groups.

However, in the focus group, the lift at Snow Hill was by far the most preferred option, taking in over a third (35%) of the votes in the focus group.

It was added though, that those suggesting the cable car in the focus group were "mostly being nostalgic" and did not want it from Waterfront, as it was perceived far away from town centre.

Heritage

With controversy sparked due to plans to remove the Fort's iconic dome earlier this year, the consultation also honed in on opinions around heritage.

From a public perspective, over three quarters (77%) of the respondents to the survey agreed that some adaptations or alternations were justified for the long term aspirations of the project, and around six in 10 respondents either somewhat agreed or strongly agreed with taking off the roof.

Within the focus groups consulted, the heritage of the building was "valued", but not considered a main priority for most, with more respondents concerned with the Fort now being a "waste of space".

Fort_Regent_Winter_Gardens.png

Pictured: The Winter Gardens was the attraction that respondents to the survey felt most excited about.

This was said to be due to the majority of respondents feeling "neutral" about the Heritage value of the Fort, seeing it as not as important a historical location compared to Elizabeth Castle or Mont Orgueil.

It was observed that some however did defend the Fort's dome - due to be removed as part of the regeneration proposals - due to its "iconic" status.

Contrasting this, the community consultation group "overall" saw people say there was a historical importance attached to the Fort, with "many" requesting the historical elements remain and were rejuvenated to remember the island's history, or to educate young islanders about the Fort.

However, like some members of the focus groups, there were others in the community consultation who felt "the need for regeneration was stronger than focussing on keeping the current structures," and despite the sympathy for the building's history, the majority of these respondents still called for its renovation.

Ownership

Over two thirds (65%) either somewhat agreed or strongly agreed that the building should remain under the Government's ownership.

In terms of development of the new project, even more (73%) agreed that it should be handled by an arm's-length organisation, and just under that (69%) felt that major development should involve investment from the private sector.

Government.jpg

Pictured: Most respondents wanted a majority of ownership to be with the Government, but with some collaboration from private and arms length companies for the regeneration.

Again, focus groups reflected the opinion of the public survey, requesting a small "dedicated" Government team manage the Fort, but have a private commercial company to run and create the regeneration, preferring an arm's length company to help the project develop quickly.

They also said they "expected subscription options (similar to Durrell or Jersey Heritage) to be able to access the Fort, however areas like the gardens or outdoor playground were expected to be free".

Within the community group, most felt the Government should retain majority ownership of the Fort, but added there would also be need for "non-States management of the Fort as respondents felt that the States don't have the expertise or ability to manage the Fort effectively".

"Some were unsure of whether these plans would be carried out"

Overall, the public survey saw the long-term plans for the project score a mean 6.5 satisfaction rate on a scale of one to 10.

Whilst the closed consultation group noted that majority of closed community responses were also "impressed and happy" with the ideas, with 87% of respondents either 'liking or loving' the plans, it noted that "some were unsure of whether these plans would be carried out" at all.

Likewise, though the consultation said that the majority of those in focus groups were "were very impressed and happy", they acknowledged "some were unsure of whether these plans would be carried out".

Public_Survey_Results.png

Pictured: The overall satisfaction for the long term regeneration plans was rated at a mean of 6.5.

Commenting on the feedback, Chief Minister Senator John Le Fondré said: "I would like to thank Islanders for taking part in the consultation that explored the Future Fort proposals.

"I am pleased that we had such a high response rate as it is really important that everyone had the opportunity to have their say in creating the vision to transform Fort Regent into a cultural and leisure destination for both Islanders and tourists of all ages to enjoy.

"Fort Regent is an important part of St. Helier's skyline and therefore it was necessary to gain the views of as many Islanders and stakeholders as possible.

"We ran numerous focus groups and closed online forums, as well as the public consultation to really get a taste of what people are excited or concerned about.

"The next stage will be starting the procurement process for a design team in the coming weeks and starting work on the outdoor spaces later next month. Finalised information on this will be announced soon."

READ MORE...

Fort dome doomed as part of major refurb plans

INSIGHT: 'Future Fort'... 25 years of copy and paste?

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Comments

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Posted by Scott Mills on
Please just stop. Flatten the thing, and get the dolmen back from someone's back garden in henley on thames, and bury Humphrey underneath it. That or a snow/climbing/indoor skydiving centr?, the grass area leading from old pool, is perfect for a synthetic dry sky slope. Ramparts used for climbing etc..., and why not an indoor sky diving funnel/tunnel type thing. Casino and hotel, wow very 21st century. Can't anyone in the States think outside the shores of Jersey!!! anyone with imagination than a hotel....a casino. Why not empty the inside, create a massive indoors tropical water park (they've one in germany is absolutely amazing). Still wet beaches for the weekend.
Posted by Donal Dolo on
Who wants gambling a family treat would be nice
Posted by Bruce Willing on
This proposal is a complete waste of money. It comes with a large cost and no business plan. Where is the revenue coming from to maintain and police it? Why are we thinking of taking down the dome, which is a key part of the St Helier skyline? Why not make it and the whole Gloucester Hall an entertainment and conference facility? By all means, surround it with walks and pretty gardens, but not having any revenue proposals is crass and is a typical example of a politician who dreams.

With whatever the government proposes to spend there needs to be a positive return. Stop spending money like water and think again.
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