A key vote on whether to approve controversial plans for a ‘highway’ to the £800m future hospital has been accelerated to next week after a push led by the Deputy Chief Minister, infuriating politicians and nearby residents.
The debate on whether Westmount Road should be widened to access the new Overdale health facility will now be going ahead on Monday - more than a week earlier than originally planned.
Senator Lyndon Farnham’s decision to bring forward the vote, which was backed by 16 politicians, comes amid concerns from States Members that there was already too little time and not enough detail in the proposals for them to be properly scrutinised.
As Express reported last week, no detailed visuals have been provided of what the new highway, which will encompass the existing Jersey Bowling Club, will look like - something Scrutineers were seeking to rectify.
But Senator Farnham hit back at calls for more time and information last night, as he warned that he was planning to requisition a special States Assembly meeting.
Pictured: The debate on the future hospital access route could last three days.
In an email seen by Express which was sent to Chief Scrutineer Senator Kristina Moore shortly before midnight and copied to all States Members, he wrote: “I would like to reiterate once again that the speed at which this project is progressing is determined by our ageing and decaying health estate.
“Having heard first-hand, on many occasions, from frontline health workers the conditions with which they are currently working, I must say that [Our Hospital Political Oversight Group] members were both surprised and disappointed by your apparent lack of appreciation of this crucial driver of the project.”
He went on to suggest that the fact politicians didn’t feel they had enough information was a problem of their own making.
“…It is the political process that has prevented us from giving you, and others, the details that you are requesting at this stage. For example, had the site selection proposition not been amended, we would already be three months into the design phase. This work has yet to begin.”
He went on to describe the information provided about the proposed Westmount access route so far as a “high-level appraisal”, going on to add: “Nowhere in the world would a detailed assessment be undertaken to the extent which you are suggesting given the blatant waste of precious public resources involved. We acknowledge that you have identified the approach we have taken as legitimate. We can address the suggested risks in the knowledge that we are always addressing the most critical risk. That is the ability to keep us all and future generations of islanders safe and healthy.”
Pictured: The Government has so far refused to provide any detailed drawing of what the proposed access route will look like.
He did, however, express support for St. Helier Constable Simon Crowcroft’s bid to protect green spaces around the new highway.
States Members were notified that a meeting had been requisitioned less than 12 hours later, with Senator Farnham receiving support on the early vote from:
Several States Members have reacted angrily to the news, with one describing the move to Express as “malign.”
Residents of the Westmount area have also responded furiously.
Advocate Olaf Blakeley, spokesperson for the group, told Express: “My position is that the preferred access route is the wrong route, and if States Members had all the information before them, then I am confident that a majority of them would agree.
“What Senator Farnham is attempting to do is deprive people of seeing the necessary information to make an informed decision about the access route.”
Pictured: Westmount resident Advocate Olaf Blakeley accused the Deputy Chief Minister of attempting to "blindfold" States Members and said his actions ran contrary to proper democratic process.
He continued: “Firstly, he is refusing point blank to provide any schematics or diagrams in respect of what States Members are being asked to agree.
“Secondly, it has now moved the debate to deprive States Members of the time to get their own information.
“It smacks of panic by Senator Farnham. They had initially set the debate for 9 February. What possible difference could it make for ministers? It makes none. But it makes a big difference for those looking for more information before voting.
“The only reason that Scrutiny asked for a delay to 2 March was to get the information that he has failed to provide. Senator Farnham is the cause of the delay.
"Now that the road and the hospital will be part of the same planning application, there is no rush now. Senator Farnham does not need the access route to start work on the hospital.”
In a statement issued this evening, Senator Farnham further justified his decision to requisition an urgent meeting: "The States have so far wasted eight years and considerable sums of money by failing at all previous attempts to deliver a new hospital.
"The timeline and impetus which is driving the project is determined by our ageing and decaying health estate and the unsustainable cost of maintaining it past 2026. This is why there can be no further delay.
“Islanders want us to get on and deliver a new hospital and, regrettably, we have got to the point where we have to take action to ensure the project can move ahead. The latest amendment from Scrutiny seeks even more unnecessary delay and puts the whole project at risk.”
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