The Environment Minister has asked for a change in the law to ask others to have the final say on the future hospital planning application alongside him.
At present, major planning applications, like the future hospital, are assessed for their impact during a public inquiry.
An appointed independent planning officer then makes a recommendation on whether the application should be approved to the Environment Minister, who makes the ultimate decision.
But Deputy John Young is seeking to spread that burden among a larger group, including an Assistant Minister and the Chair of the Planning Committee.
The revelation came when the Minister was asked during this week’s States Assembly meeting whether he feels comfortable discharging the burden a second time.
Noting that it is a “high-pressure” situation, Deputy Young said that he had signed a Ministerial Decision instructing officers to draw up plans that would widen the planning law to allow others to be involved in major planning decisions.
While he was unable to provide an exact date for that work to be finished, he said he was hoping those plans would come before the States assembly for a vote this year.
Deputy Young became the second successive Minister to reject plans to revamp the current hospital last year, agreeing with the planning inspector that the resulting development would be “imposing and out of scale” with the area, and likely to cause “unreasonable harm”.
Video: The Environment Minister explaining his reasons for rejecting the previous future hospital planning application.
The year before, his predecessor, Deputy Steve Luce, rejected the development on similar grounds, with the plans blasted as “over-dominant, obtrusive and alien.”
At the time, both Ministers spoke of the burden upon them in making their decisions, but claimed that they had been taken in the “public interest.”
Senator Moore asked Deputy Young during this week’s States Assembly meeting whether he felt content that enough work had been done to establish a public interest test in advance of any new application being submitted.
He replied that “enormous effort” had been put into producing supplementary planning guidance for the team developing the new hospital to follow in the hope that any new proposals carefully balance relevant factors.
Elsewhere in the meeting, Deputy Steve Ahier asked the Environment Minister whether he was aware of any protected species at Le Val André – the woodlands at the bottom of the Overdale site.
While the Minister said he was not sure, he noted that any planning application would have to accompany an environmental impact assessment.
He noted, however, that he had distanced himself from the site selection process as he has responsibility for the ultimate decision.
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