Politicians have voted down plans to suspend the Waterfront development pending a Scrutiny review, the day after banks, builders and lenders involved in the scheme refused to hand over documents to backbenchers scrutinising the project.
Building work could start on Monday on the long-awaited office development after politicians voted 26-17 to press on with the project. They rejected Deputy Montfort Tadier's plea for a pause while the Scrutiny panel finished its work, instead backing Chief Minister Ian Gorst, who said that a delay would cost money and make the States look unreliable and inconsistent.
The Corporate Services Scrutiny panel, which is reviewing the States-backed scheme to build offices on the Waterfront, recently asked the quango that will develop the centre for copies of leases and agreements that tenants UBS, constructor Camerons and lender HSBC had signed. The panel, chaired by Deputy John Le Fondré, offered to keep the documents confidential but on Monday the panel revealed that all three companies had refused to hand them over.
Earlier this year, the panel were also frustrated by a long delay in getting their hands on an independent review by letting agent BNP Paribas, which came out in favour of the project.
The panel were grilling Treasury Minister Alan Maclean, who has political oversight of the Jersey Development Company, which is developing the Waterfront on behalf of Islanders.
Vice-chairman Deputy Simon Brée said that the panel was “disappointed” by the response of the companies and questioned whether JDC, who had agreed to ask for the documents at a hearing two weeks ago, had actually been pleased that the signatories had refused.
“I am supportive of the panel’s aims but equally I have sympathy with private companies and can understand their reluctance to hand over commercial information to third parties,” said Senator Maclean.
“That said, I can see the frustration of Scrutiny when it comes to accessing documentation, even when they offer to keep it confidential, and I would support a review of the rules to make it easier for Scrutiny to get their hands on important evidence.”
The JIFC is being built in phases and the site of the first six-storey building, which Swiss bank UBS will occupy a quarter of, is due to be handed over to Camerons on Monday.
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