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Fort Regent: "It's the beginning of the end"

Fort Regent:

Tuesday 02 October 2018

Fort Regent: "It's the beginning of the end"


It's crunch time for the Fort - the building either needs a new lease of life or must accept its sad fate, a senior States official has now warned amid concerns that the deteriorating building could be a threat to the safety of people using it.

John Rogers, Director General for Growth, Housing and Island Environment, said that there are many options for the future of the building, but that the decision will have to be made by the States Assembly.

His comments came yesterday during a Scrutiny hearing with the Minister for Infrastructure, Deputy Kevin Lewis, chaired by St. Brelade Constable Mike Jackson.

When asked about the future of the iconic building, Mr Rogers said that recent issues with asbestos were a sign that something urgently needs to be done with the building. Last month, parts of the Fort, including the weightlifting area, were closed down to the public after technicians found an asbestos-related fibre in an electrical cupboard containing an air handling unit.

Air tests carried out immediately after the fibres were found showed that staff and members of the public hadn't been put at serious risk, but officials nonetheless decided to remove debris and the asbestos-containing material in the coating of the walls as a precautionary measure.

"It's the beginning of the end for the Fort's current use," Mr Rogers told the panel, adding that thought needs to be given as to how it can be reinvigorated.

"It’s been a challenge for us for the past 20 years in terms of viability," he said. "It's tricky because it’s a fort, so it's designed to people not getting in, but once you are in there it’s a wonderful space."

fort_regent.jpg 

Pictured: Fort Regent has been a challenge for the States for the past 20 years, a senior official said.

The Director General said that his department is trying to find a solution that will be viable for the next 50 years, while taking into account the "affection" Jersey as a whole has for Fort Regent. "It is a fantastic facility, we just need to find what it is going to be for its next life," he added. "There are lots of options and they are all very political!"

The Minister for Infrastructure commented that around 15,000 people use the Fort's facilities each week. "Not to mention Gloucester Hall when there is something happening there," he added. "It's very well used!" He however said that "an awful lot of money" is spent on the building.

Mr Rogers explained that the roof of the building leaks and that "there is a problem with everything." He said he wanted to avoid repeating history and what happened with the former pool, which he said is now sadly beyond repair and has to go. "We can't leave it [Fort Regent] like that," he said. "The actual redevelopment will be something for the States to decide at a political level.

"But if you look at the cable car station, it closed down in, what, 1988? And now we are only just starting to destroy it. It's a very peculiar way of managing your assets Once the swimming pool shut down, the logical thing to do would have to submit a planning application and deal with it. We have got to think better of our asset and how we manage it."

fort regent demolition

Pictured: Contractors should be on site early next year to start the demolition of the pool.

Fort Regent has been the focus of much attention recently, and not for the right reasons. The Minister for Economic Development, Tourism, Sport and Culture, Senator Lyndon Farnham, was quizzed on its future during the first States sitting after summer. Deputy Steve Ahier described "an abject failure to invest" in the building and asked the Minister what plans the Fort Regent Future Group, currently chaired by Senator Steve Pallett, had for its regeneration.

Senator Farnham said a lot of work has been going on, adding: "It is still nothing short of a disgrace that we have left that facility to deteriorate over the years and we talk about it without doing anything. Something simply has to be done. My department, my ministerial team, are absolutely side-by-side in ensuring it will be, because if it does not we will have to close the venue down in the not too distant future."

He added that the degradation of the Fort's surface has gotten to such a point that it is starting to affect users. "When the safety of the public is called into question, we are left with but one option. If that action is to happen, and I hope we can avoid it, but if it does then, ironically, it might prove the catalyst to give this Assembly and Government the kick in the pants it needs to get something done about it; if that is a parliamentary phrase I can use," Senator Farnham added.

Mr Rogers said that along with the redevelopment of the whole site, another form of access will need to be thought through to give people an easy access to the Fort from Snow Hill.

Meanwhile, he confirmed that the demolition of the cable car station is continuing and on track to finish early November. Contractors should be on site early next year to work on the swimming pool  

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Posted by Jeremy Reidy on
"Fort Regent has been a challenge for the States for the past 20 years, a senior official said."
Yeah - it must have been awful just ignoring this barely noticeable building sat on the hill in the centre of town for the last 20 years and doing naff all to protect, invest or maintain it.
It's a complete disgrace that this has been allowed to deteriorate to such an extent that it is now being touted as too dangerous for people to even go there.
Still, we can all be sure that NOBODY will br accountable, NOBODY will acceot responsibilty and they'll have another meaningless debate about it while it crumbles down down the hill.
Absolute disgrace of a situation.
The people of this island should be marching through the streets demonstrating about the state of this island and how its run.
If only . . .
Posted by L Brindle on
Run to breakdown may initially seem like a good way to go, but it isn't as is now being proved. Unfortunately, the powers that be seem to love it, as it's a cheap option. They're finding out that this isn't the case. With this in mind, a new hospital will again be required, if indeed the proposed new one ever gets built, in a period of about 50 years. Most of the assets the public own that are in the care of government end up being neglected. No point putting a sticking plaster over an axe wound. Is this going to be yet another public property given away to private investors ? Don't hold your breath folks. Luxury flat anyone ?
Posted by Jeremy Reidy on
Presumably my first comment was too political so I'll try again.

Fort Regent has been a challenge for the States for the past 20 years, a senior official said.

Yeah - what a challenge it must have been - ignoring it with their heads buried in the sand as it fell in to disrepair.
I hope everyone involved in this scandal is very proud of themselves.
Disgrace.

The lack of care or meaningful action displayed by the people on this island is the reason scandals like this and countless others have and will continue to occur.
Posted by John Henwood on
Once a real attraction for visitors and the local community, the Fort's current problems began with a downturn in tourism and the view that further decline was inevitable. Politically tourism was no longer in favour and the politician then in charge, Terry Le Main (I don't recall whether he was Deputy or Senator at the time) decided it should no longer cater for visitors and instead become a sports centre. One by one the attractions went: the daytime shows in the piazza, the dancing fountains, the big entertainments events, the vivarium, the aquarium, the funfair in the East Ditch, the shops, the nightclub, the restaurant and so much more. And of course the pool was deemed too expensive to maintain. And so it became a vast, largely empty, shell and nothing deteriorates quicker than a very old, largely unused building. Bit by bit sections had to be closed off as they became dangerous to too little used to justify expensive maintenance. Now that tourism is resurgent it would be wonderful to have all those facilities back, but it's too late, the victim of political short sightedness. What to do with it now? Well, we can't afford to go on as we are. All the facilities currently available could be provided elsewhere in better surroundings and at an enormous saving. Then we can start thinking about a new use that would justify the vast sums that need to be spent, perhaps with a strategic partner. With the Glacis Field it might be big enough to support a university campus which would bring revenue from overseas students whilst at the same time support growth in the digital sector and help our own young people to become better equipped to meet our future employment needs. Too visionary? Then just turn the key and stop throwing good money away.
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