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Heritage hits out at “embarrassingly long history of inaction” at castle

Heritage hits out at “embarrassingly long history of inaction” at castle

Wednesday 04 November 2020

Heritage hits out at “embarrassingly long history of inaction” at castle


The Government cutting nearly £4m in funding earmarked to renovate Elizabeth Castle has left Jersey Heritage “surprised, disappointed and embarrassed”, saying the decision adds to an “embarrassingly long history of inaction” that started in the 1980s.

The multi-million project had been approved in the 2020-2023 Government plan, published last year, but the funding was pulled from the latest version of the plan which covers the period 2021 to 2024.

Invited to comment on the Government Plan by the Economic and International Affairs Scrutiny Panel, Tim Brown, the Chair of Jersey Heritage, welcomed the Government’s promise to deliver on the States Assembly’s ambition to devote 1% of its net revenue expenditure to the arts, culture and heritage.

“However, we note that on the face of it, a huge amount of money has come out of the allocation if the previous and current Plans are compared in the periods in which they overlap,” he added.

“The main loser here seems to be heritage in general, but plans for Elizabeth Castle in particular.”

Tim_Brown.jpg

Pictured: Tim Brown, Chair of Jersey Heritage.

Those plans, which were first presented to States Members 2017, included £3.69m of funding, paid in two tranches in 2022 and 2023, which would have gone towards renovating the hospital block to its Victorian interiors, creating new event and toilet facilities in the coal stores and transforming the officers’ quarters into self-catered holiday lets.

The need for renovation works at Elizabeth Castle, described as a “key heritage asset” was first highlighted in 1980 by AC Saunders, Chief Inspector of Ancient Monuments at the UK Department of the Environment, who had been invited by the Public Works Committee to make proposals for the future development of the site, which included the rehabilitation of both the Hospital and Officers’ Quarters.

Four years later, Jersey Heritage Trust reminded the States of those priorities highlighting that “nothing had yet been done, nor funds provided for the undertaking of this important element in the actual development of the castles."

Hospital Block - Elizabeth Castle

Pictured: The hospital block is one of several buildings that has been needing renovation since the 1980's.

Despite the States accepting that the Trust could apply to the Finance and Economics Committee for additional funding if repairs were needed, Mr Brown said that none of the applications made between 2006 and 2016 were “received favourably” with no justifications given for the rejection.

The tide seemed to turn in 2019 when States Members agreed funding for the project, following a comprehensive survey of the condition of the castle but it has now hit another roadblock.

“So we were surprised and disappointed, if not embarrassed, when we were alerted to the possibility that the proposals, first identified for progress in 1980, were yet again to be a casualty of changes to the Plan because, we were informed, they had been included in error in both revenue and capital allocations: Elizabeth Castle seems to have gone from being included twice to being excluded altogether,” Mr Brown said.

Elizabeth_Castle.jpg

Pictured: The Assembly agreed funding for works at the Castle in 2019, but it disappeared from the latest Government plan.

He noted how the States’ ambitions for the restoration of key heritage assets at Elizabeth Castle have “an embarrassingly long history of inaction which long pre-dates the formation of Jersey Heritage."

He also urged the Government to seize the opportunity to bring “this important heritage site, at the heart of St. Helier and of our island story, but currently culturally and economically redundant for six months of the year, to life year-round for attraction, events, accommodation and community use."

“We understand the challenges facing the island but the island’s responsibilities towards this significant heritage asset, sought from the Crown, set out in the usufruct and on several occasions over 40 years approved by the States, cannot be avoided by Treasury forever,” Mr Brown wrote.

Elizabeth_Castle.jpg

Pictured: Mr Brown said the island cannot avoid its responsibilities to the castle forever.

“Whilst it appears that it has not been possible to fund the Castle in this Plan, our concern remains that consequently, 40 years after the need was recognised by the Assembly, there is no plan or, to put it another way, in effect a plan never to invest in this building, the most significant public heritage asset in St. Helier and one of the island’s most important visitor attractions, in support of the obligations placed on Jersey Heritage by the Assembly in the usufruct.”

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