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FOCUS: Overdale still faces a long and winding road

FOCUS: Overdale still faces a long and winding road

Wednesday 07 October 2020

FOCUS: Overdale still faces a long and winding road

Wednesday 07 October 2020


From compulsory purchases to better road access, Monkey Puzzle trees and an £800m price tag… Express examines all the hurdles Overdale will have to overcome to become Jersey’s new hospital.

After more than a decade of debate and deliberation, protest and procrastination, we now have another preferred hospital site. Ministers concede that no site ticks all the boxes, but believe that Overdale has the most virtues, and the fewest imperfections. This is despite the fact that it has twice been proposed as a site, and twice has it been rejected.

But they hope that the States Assembly will sweep past reluctance aside and back their choice next month.

If they do, a final clinical brief will be published before the end of the year, the costs will be finalised by the middle of next year, a planning application will be made by the autumn, the builders will move in by late spring 2022, they will finish by late 2025, and the first patients will be cared for in 2026.

Ministers realise that this is an ambitious timescale and many hurdles have to be overcome.

Here Express dives into the proposal that Members will debate in November and identifies a few of them...

Acquiring the land to build it

The main site is already owned by the public, but the rest of the required land is owned by nine landowners, including Jersey Water, which will have to leave its headquarters. The Government has already formally submitted proposals to enable the compulsory purchase of the sites they want, if necessary. 

Six of the nine are thought to be willing sellers, although the documents also say that their price aspirations are "unrealistic." The tenants of the States-owned bowling green on Westmount Road will also need to move out when their lease ends in February 2023, so that the road can be widened and 'de-kinked.'

Overdale Compulsory Purchase

Pictured: the land which will need to be acquired for the Overdale plans.

In total, 19 parcels of land outside of Government ownership have been identified as potentially being added to the hospital site - 14 of which are private homes. Ministers hope to resolve all disputes by next March but, if negotiations are not successful, they plan to acquire the land by compulsory purchase.

Alternative homes for Jersey Water and the Jersey Bowling Club will also need to be found. 

Compulsory Purchase Overdale

Access

Getting to and from Overdale has been identified as a problem in all previous reports. It sits on top of an escarpment, flanked by woodland and accessed by narrow and winding roads. A solution in previous plans was to cut new access from the Inner Road. Unfortunately, this would have meant the destruction of the King George V Cottage Homes at the base of Westmount Hill.

This latest plan offers a reprieve for the sheltered accommodation. Instead, it proposes “significant engineering works” to straighten, widen and lessen the gradient of Westmount Road to make it suitable for ambulances, buses and trucks. The route will also be made safer for walkers and cyclists. 

The planners concede that Overdale is more than the ideal five to 10 minutes’ walk from the centre of town, therefore there will be more traffic to and from it, and the need for more parking - hence the inclusion of two fields in the plan. 

Pictured: Westmount Road will have to be widened, straightened and flattened to improve access to the hospital.

The bulk of the car parking will be provided by the southern field, which is opposite the main hospital building and has the potential for an underground link below to Westmount Road. It will have 275 spaces over two levels.

There may be more spaces in the northern field but that is primarily earmarked for a J-shaped administration, learning and staff wellness block overlooking a landscaped courtyard.  

The report concedes that, when it comes to access, Overdale isn’t the best site:

“On balance, there is a clear advantage of People’s Park over Overdale in relation to vehicular access and while this can be rectified, the costs will be substantial,” it says.

The plan envisages a high-frequency bus service from Liberation Station and a segregated cycle lane. It adds that “options such as funicular railway, Norwegian cycle lifts etc should not be discounted at this stage."

To improve the traffic flow to and from the hospital, it is likely that the main road going around the People’s Park will be made two-way so traffic coming down from the Hospital will be able to turn right and head south at the bottom of Westmount Road. 

Road changes around People's Park.png

Pictured: How the road might change around the People's Park to improve access to and from Overdale.

Coming up Tower Road from the west is not considered suitable for hospital traffic and cars may be banned from turning right into Westmount Road.

Visual impact

Crucially for those concerned that the hospital would stick out like a sore thumb, it will be no more than two storeys high from Westmount Road, with machinery on top. This is because the site’s natural slope to the west allows the building to “cascade” downhill.

Although the hospital’s design is yet to be finalised, it is envisaged that it will very broadly comprise of two parallel rectangles with three prongs, which will be inpatient wards, sticking out like fingers from the western block and overlooking Le Val André and towards the coast. To the south of the prongs will be a separate mental health unit, squarish with a central courtyard. Each block will have a basement, ground floor and two storeys above. However, options for future expansion include adding an extra storey to the prongs and western rectangle.

Plan of Overdale site.png

Pictured: A sketch of the new hospital, taken from the proposal to States Members.

Despite being relatively well screened by trees and existing buildings, Overdale sits 62m above sea level and, although this will give patients lovely views over St. Aubin’s Bay, it will make the hospital visible, particularly to the south.

Assuming that the buildings will vary in height from 5m to 30m, a theoretical ‘zone of visibility’ suggests that the hospital will be able to be seen from as far as Elizabeth Castle to the south and First Tower to the west.

Visual Impact Zone Overdale.png

Pictured: The expected 'zone of theoretical visibility' of the hospital, marked in purple.

Fort Regent will block out the hospital from the south east while vegetation and existing buildings will block out the hospital from most angles to the north.

Planning and building constraints

The report admits that Overdale poses a greater challenge in relation to the policies of the Island Plan. Most of the site is within the Built-Up Area and the Green Backdrop Zone, which aims to achieve a lower intensity of building and a higher degree of open space and planting, while the two fields are in the Green Zone and currently farmed.

There is a presumption against developing in the Green Zone but that policy can be set aside if there is deemed a more pressing public need. There is also a presumption in law against the permanent loss of agricultural land for development, something that the RJA&HS have fought against for many years, so there may be some resistance from the agricultural industry. It is expected that many of the older and derelict hospital buildings will contain asbestos and initial assessments suggest that it will take up to six months to safely clear the site. There is also at least one listed building within the plan, the 19th century Thorpe Cottage, which is earmarked to be demolished.

The presence of asbestos is anticipated within the derelict buildings, and some of the older estate, asbestos is not anticipated in the more recently constructed Westmount Centre. Initial assessments suggest a three to six-month period will be required to clear the site ready for construction to start.

Ecology

The Overdale plans do not envisage clearing the parkland to the south and west of the site, however, the trees along the site’s western boundary and hedgerows around the fields are likely to offer valuable commuting corridors for bats, birds and other species such as red squirrels.

It is also likely that hedgehogs, common toads and bats live on the site. 

Overdale woodland.png

Pictured: One of the green corridors leading from Overdale down to the parish-owned Val André woodland.

The report says: “In relation to the Environmental Criteria question: ‘What is the ecological impact?’, it is assessed that Overdale has a slightly higher level of impact than the People’s Park, given the higher level of species present within the man hospital site and upper reaches of the valley."

It adds: “There is a particular concern regarding the loss of mature trees at Overdale, including old specimens of Oak and a Monkey Puzzle tree. During concept design, the planning of the building will be developed to respect and maintain as many quality trees as possible. 

“Where this is not possible, opportunities will need to be developed to mitigate this loss. The placement of the inpatient wards to the west of the site provides a degree of flexibility to achieve this.”

Cost

The ‘affordability limit’ for the overall design and build for the new hospital was set at £550m - and, perhaps unsurprisingly, this is what Overdale has come in at.

However, although the maximum build cost is £550m, there are extra costs, such as drainage, new site access, road improvements, demolition, site preparation and decommissioning the old Hospital. 

Taken together - and adding contingencies for rising costs, things going wrong, and not always getting the best deal, which is a standard practice when budgeting for construction projects - these site-specific and general costs total £254m for Overdale, taking the potential cost up to £804m.

For the People’s Park, the total potential cost would be £743.7m, £60m less.

The contingency element is nearly £50m more for Overdale - with £174.3m set aside compared to £129.9m for the People’s Park, which indicates a much higher level of risk building at the upper site.

Building costs Overdale.png

Pictured: The building costs of Overdale compared to the People's Park.

Acquiring land for Overdale will also be twice as expensive at the lower park - £25.3m compared to £12.7m. However, if the People’s Park was chosen, it would cost the Government £23.1m to provide the same amount of green space elsewhere.

Overdale extra costs.png

Pictured: The 'extra' costs of both sites, which are in addition to the build costs.

The final paragraph of the report makes it clear that the £804m price-tag may rise even further.

“There are costs to Government which are in addition to those covered in this report,” it predicts. “There is work required by Government to establish and firm up these costs which will take place over the next six to eight months, but they would include issues such as relocation of Health and Children’s Services and other challenges associated with any particular site, reprovision of lost amenity and charges or fees associated with property purchases, clinical need changes during the project or resultant running costs.”

Ministers, however, think it is worth the cost.

lyndon-farnham.jpg

Pictured: Deputy Chief Minister Lyndon Farnham announced the Overdale choice to the Assembly yesterday.

As Deputy Chief Minister Lyndon Farnham told the States yesterday: “If approved, Overdale Hospital will be set in an elevated, peaceful location and natural environment, close to town, with incredible sea views, offering individual recovery rooms alongside state-of-the-art and flexible, modern medical facilities and technology – the patient experience will be paramount meaning we will be able to attract the very best in healthcare professionals providing the highest standards of care for future generations."

He continued: “I ask that the Assembly unite behind the great responsibility that is now in their hands and that we work together to ensure no further delays or disruption but instead look to maximise the tremendous opportunity that this proposal provides.”

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Comments

Comments on this story express the views of the commentator only, not Bailiwick Publishing. We are unable to guarantee the accuracy of any of those comments.

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Posted by nigel pearce on
Overdale is much more suited to residential development. Put the hospital at St. Saviour's Hospital with a small A & E unit in town.
Posted by Philip Hudson on
What a mess overdale for me was a always from the beginning a prime site...
Meanwhile gov.com have spent millions on consultants over many years then they come up with the almost obvious solution.
With business minded people on board and experienced people this could have become a much ..much less costly project.
Posted by Jon Jon on
Absolutely crazy to build it there at Overdale.Look at the costs and added costs...use your brains guys and build on a blank site.This government is going to throw us but mainly our kids and grandkids into way higher taxes to pay for all their blunders.You would have to search hard at the moment to find a brain cell in any states member!
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