An independent inquiry into the proposed new hospital at Overdale will begin in March – just a few days after States Members are due to decide the planning policies that the project will be judged against.
The planning inquiry – led by an inspector who previously twice rejected plans to rebuild the General Hospital in Gloucester Street – will begin on Monday 28 March and should last a week.
The Government said the inspector “will assess the plans against the Island Plan policies that are in place at the time of the inquiry”.
That looks likely to be the three-year Bridging Island Plan, which is scheduled to be debated on 14 March. With 60 amendments lodged, the plan could take all week to discuss.
If that debate is pushed back, the Hospital will be assessed against the current Island Plan, which was introduced in 2011 and updated in 2014.
It is expected, however, that the draft Bridging Island Plan will be debated as scheduled in March. Unlike the 2011 plan, it has a specific policy relating to the new hospital at Overdale.
Pictured: Planning inspectors examining the Bridging Island Plan are currently writing a report on its policy on the new hospital.
It says: “Proposals for the development of the new hospital within the designated ‘Our Hospital development site’ will be afforded the highest level of priority, and will be supported where:
It adds: “Proposals for the alternative use of land designated as part of the ‘Our Hospital development site will not be supported.”
None of the 60 amendments put forward by States Members relate to this policy.
However, the specific policy – ‘C13’ in the draft document - is currently being assessed by independent planning inspectors reviewing the Bridging Island Plan.
Submissions to them by members of the public did seek the policy’s removal from the three-year plan and the matter was discussed at a public hearing last month.
The planning inspectors’ report is expected to be published mid January.
When it comes to the independent inquiry into the new hospital, anyone wishing to make a representation, known as a ‘Statement of Case’ needs to make their submission in writing by midnight on Sunday 23 January.
Those who wish to add to their ‘Statement of Case’ may submit a more detailed ‘Proof of Evidence’, which must be received by midnight on Sunday 20 February.
It is understood the inspector’s remit is focused on the merits of the application and not whether the hospital should be built anywhere other than Overdale.
The public inquiry, which will be streamed online, will conclude on 1 April and Mr Staddon’s report is expected to be published by 28 April.
Environment Minister John Young can then decide on the planning application based on the recommendation of the inspector.
With an election in June, concerns have been raised that the application may not be approved before Members break up to begin campaigning.
Deputy Young, however, has said he is not standing for another term.
Addressing the public inquiry, he said: “It will have a theme-based format, exploring different aspects of the application proposal. This approach will be set out in an Inquiry Programme, which will be published in advance. I encourage islanders to look through the application and participate in this process so that their voices can be heard.”
He advised islanders not to wait until the inspectors' examination of the Bridging Island Plan is published before sending their comments.
Mr Staddon in not a stranger to the Jersey planning process. He refused a planning application to build a new hospital on the site of the current General Hospital in January 2018 and again a year later in 2019. He has also led inquiries into buildings on the Waterfront.
Meanwhile, a recently Ministerial Decision states that £21m of the Government's 'Revolving Credit Facility' - an £500m overdraft it secured to help cover costs during the pandemic - has been spent on the 'Our Hospital' project.
This will be paid back when the Government takes out a £756m loan next year to pay for the £804.5m 'health campus'.
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