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Internationally-renowned Fort roof ‘must be protected’

Internationally-renowned Fort roof ‘must be protected’

Monday 21 June 2021

Internationally-renowned Fort roof ‘must be protected’

Monday 21 June 2021


Dismantling Fort Regent’s iconic roof would make a mockery of the island’s protected buildings register, and efforts to do so should be opposed, according to a former Planning Minister.

Ex-Deputy Rob Duhamel said the only reason he believed the Government was looking to dismantle the ‘Grade 2 Listed’ structure, which was completed in 1974, was because it is in a poor state due to Ministers’ own failure to invest in looking after it.

During his time as Planning Minister, Mr Duhamel spearheaded efforts to get protected status for the wave and dome structure embedded within the walls of the Georgian ramparts, winning the approval of a committee of architects, historians and laypeople in time for Architecture Week 2013.

Its listing describes the roof as a “major technological feat of its time”. 

It is supported on free-standing columns designed by British Steel and consulting engineers Edwards and Blackie.

6Fort_Regent_Archive_pics.jpg

Pictured: Before the roof was constructed. (Jersey Heritage)

“The key element was the technology employed and new techniques for bracing walls – it was done at a time when we didn’t have the computer mathematical tools that are used nowadays. so the whole thing was done by hand,” Mr Duhamel, who said he would consider mounting a campaign to save the structure, explained.

This wasn’t the only reason it was deemed special. 

Built before the oil crisis, not only was it the “largest roof of its type in western Europe at the time”, but was found to have “few, if any, parallels” elsewhere in the world.

In 1987, it was featured on a series of stamps on the theme of Modern Architecture.

4Fort_Regent_Archive_pics.jpg

Pictured: Completed in 1974, Fort Regent's roof was the “largest... of its type in western Europe at the time”. (Jersey Heritage)

“The whole point about the grading system is to establish a list of structures that are worthy of recognition and are able to be enjoyed into the future,” Mr Duhamel told Express

“It’s been recognised internationally as a special structure so it would be an awful shame to see it go… I think the listing process is important and although we had problems with the airport structure, the Arrivals Hall which went the wrong way… The listing process is there to celebrate what’s architecturally best in the island. We should be looking more creatively at how we can repair rather than removing [Fort Regent’s roof].”

But, as it unveiled its “ambitious” vision for the future of Fort Regent last week, the Government was firm that the recognisable feature of Jersey’s skyline would have to go. 

This was despite the rotunda featuring in the logo for the ‘Future Fort’ vision.

Project Director Dave Curtis explained that the current roof is now “functionally behind its useful life”. While it is not falling down, he added, it needs replacing and is difficult to adapt. Therefore, it has been decided it will be replaced, enabling the creation of a new space with vertical access. 

Infrastructure, Housing and Environment (IHE) Director General Andy Scate described the roof as being “of age”. While he noted that it “still does the work”, a “variety of leaks” have been identified across the structure.

Mr Duhamel described this justification as “the usual nonsense that you get from the States – they haven’t got their act together in terms of maintaining buildings. If we were talking about knocking down St. Thomas’s Church or [another Listed building], obviously people would be up in arms.”

Fort Regent Aerial view

Pictured: An aerial view of Fort Regent shared by the Government as it unveiled its 'Future Fort' vision last week.

The Government has emphasised that their latest proposals to update the Fort – which include a casino and cinema in the long-term – would be subject to consultation with the public.

One of the questions in the consultation asks the public to what extent they agree that “long-term aspirations for the Fort justify altering or replacement the current Fort roof”.

Mr Duhamel said he was sceptical that the public’s views would really be taken into account.

Mr Duhamel said the overall proposals for the Fort released last week felt like a “kick in the teeth”, given the work that had gone into examining its future uses previously, and assurances that sport would remain there.

An Express investigation of all reviews conducted over the past 25 years showed that the latest plans only contained one original idea – a cinema.

Fort Consultation Roof Q

Pictured: One of the questions in the consultation.

“It seems an awful shame that with the whole of the Fort Regent project, it’s almost like the hospital really, we seem to be going round and round in circles.

“Political statements have been made to the effect that sport would always remain at the Fort and we also had large investigations into whether casinos would be suitable for Jersey – on both those fronts, assurances were given that we wouldn’t have casinos and that sporting facilities would be paramount.

“It was surprising to see the Chief Minister as excited as he was, kind of praising the scheme that he was putting forward,” Mr Duhamel added, suggesting the latest proposals were “crass commercialism.”

“What I suppose is particularly surprising is, having gone over all the arguments and arrived several times that sport should remain at the Fort and the roof should be kept, we appear to be diverging on a whim. It’s all very well asking for the public’s ideas, but if no attention is paid to them, it leaves a bit of a bad taste in the mouth.”

8Fort_Regent_Archive_pics.jpg

Pictured: Fort Regent's skyline, featuring the recently constructed swimming pool, in 1972 - two years before the leisure centre's roof was put in place. (Archive of Kenneth and Kathleen Le Sueur/Jersey Heritage)

He continued: “I don’t think there’s been much creativity in terms of suggestions for the Fort.

One thing that comes to mind would be an urban farm – growing food in greenhouse structures – vertically and using artificial lighting. It would be nice if we had a big project like that where we could look at the Fort and see… it making a more positive contribution [to the community].”

CLICK HERE to take part in the Fort Regent consultation.

READ MORE...

Fort dome doomed as part of major refurb plan

"If they close the Fort for sports, it'll be the biggest crime Jersey's committed"

WATCH: 'Slideatron' creators called in to inject life into Fort

FOCUS: Penny for your Forts...

INSIGHT: 'Future Fort'... 25 years of copy and paste?

Pictured top: Jersey had a very different skyline before the Fort's iconic roof was constructed. (Jersey Heritage)

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Comments

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Posted by Martin on
I agree the Fort,s roof should be kept in perpetuity for something special - with the facility for expansion in the future :-

Maybe for hiding future massive £500K payouts for CEO,s or the hard copies of FOI requests denied to the PAYING public?
Posted by gordon le claire on
listed /protected is not a word when our government decide they want to do something but if you are a private landowner in the same vain you will never get it passed I should know
Posted by Private Individual on
Ex-Deputy Rob Duhamel is 100% accurate in what he is saying. Fort Regent was passed by the states in 1999 to be redeveloped as a sporting centre of excellence as P181.

This still stands and has NEVER been rescinded by the states. They are choosing to ignore a state's vote and the decision made by the politicians at that time because it doesn't fit in with their land give away strategy to the private sector that we will still be paying for, no savings to the taxpayer will come from this deal just more expense. P181 should be implemented NOT the removal of the sporting groups that presently use it.

It has been systematically run down by the government to get it to this point. There is nothing wrong with the roof, where is the independent structural engineer report that says it is unsafe? Where is the documentation and proof that backs up these claims?
Posted by David Moon on
Should we not face up to the fact that the Fort should not have been developed by the States and is a white elephant. They should what should have been done in the first place. Put it out to tender to experienced large development groups to build hotel/casino/entertainment centre and avoid millions of the public purse being squandered on schemes for which the States are ill equipped to develop and project manage. This would both boost tourism and provide a first class centre for the arts, conferences etc. Sports centres are proposed for the East and West of the island which should compensate for the loss of the Fort.
Posted by Private Individual on
David Fort Regent is not as you say a white elephant, most people who have never used it spew out this much-repeated nonsense, it is a wet weather facility for the benefit of the public of Jersey. That is why the roof was put on to give people somewhere to go when it rains for 9 months of the year here.

It however does not change the fact that the fort is used by thousands of people every year for various events including everything you have said. It was passed to be redeveloped as a sports centre which it is as well as a much-used community hub in town.

It is not the people using it demanding that it be redeveloped into something that will not be used by the majority of people, but the politicians such as Le Fondre and Hugh Raymond who are adamant to sign even more contracts with the private sector at the expense of the taxpaying public.

The record of which is appalling.
Posted by Scott Mills on
Has anyone interviewed Pluto regarding the roof?
Posted by captain sensible on
Wholeheartedly agree, when the Fort was first developed it was a major attraction, alas the tourism industry is not what it was back in the 70's and 80's. However, the Fort also provided much needed facilities for Islanders and still does.
Regrettably and completely on par for successive Governments little or no upkeep or maintenance was carried out at the Fort, one can see the lack of maintenance by walking around the place. The evidence is there in the dismantling of the swimming pool complex. The governments record of maintenance is shambolic, look at CLEM hose built in 1981 and being demolished. It really is small wonder that we actually still have private homes that we built in the 17 and 1800's if the same were owned by the states they would long since perished.
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