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Doomed or destined for revamp? Dome report to determine Fort future

Doomed or destined for revamp? Dome report to determine Fort future

Friday 15 September 2023

Doomed or destined for revamp? Dome report to determine Fort future

Friday 15 September 2023

As Ministers weigh up the future for Fort Regent (again), it seems the destiny of the beloved leisure spot may hinge on how much it will cost to repair its iconic sweeping white roof and rotunda.

A structural assessment of the leisure centre’s distinctive roof and dome has found them to be safe – but its cladding and rubberised skin is in need of repair in various places.

The cost of those is now being worked out – and a report is due to be published next month. Meanwhile, the Government is identifying new uses for the ramparts and other outside areas on and around the Regency fortification.

Focus on the outside

Addressing a recent Scrutiny panel hearing, Tim Daniels, who leads the Government’s property arm, said: “The actual structure of the roof has been tested and is deemed to be safe. However, the cladding and the skin have been identified as needing work in various places and the costing of the remediation of that is currently ongoing.

“What we are doing at the moment is looking at what can be done to the outside areas, in terms of the safety of the battlements, walls and the structures themselves, and the intent is to get to a position as quickly as possible where we can start to use the outside area and at least make use of those facilities.”

What happens if repair costs are too much?

Asked what would happen if the cost of the roof repairs was deemed too high, Infrastructure Minister Tom Binet said: “I suspect it’s one of those where it’s going to be a large sum but not unmanageable. I suspect we will be under pressure to make it wind and watertight."

Fort Rotunda 1972.jpg

Pictured: The Rotunda being constructed in 1972.

He continued: “This is a major problem whichever way to look at it. If you can’t find any money to repair the roof, at some point in time you either have to let the whole thing rot or you have to dismantle the roof covering and do something else with it. And that’s going to cost us more. 

“It’s one of those – whichever way you move, it’s going to be quite a lot of money, and you have to manage public opinion at the same time, and the Fort seems to be a sensitive area for a lot of people.”

He added: “It is a very big covered area and we’re short of covered area in any event so it would make some sense to spend the money and do some sort of development.”

"At the end of the day, we have had 50 years of use out of it"

The once bustling Fort Regent now has only a small number of public facilities, including the soft-play area. It is also home to a small number of organisations, including a handful of sports clubs and the Ballet d’Jerri. 

Most clubs have moved out to other places, as part of the 2021 Inspiring Active Places strategy. The gym moved to Springfield in May.

Asked if, with no clear plan for what will happen at the Fort, the decision to relocate clubs had been premature, Deputy Binet replied: “At the end of the day, we have had 50 years of use out of it. 

“However, all elements of it are at the end of their useful life, it does not meet any of the standards that would be required now and it is full of asbestos. 

“We cannot tackle any of that until we have the place empty. It is bound to be controversial; people are being denied access to something they love dearly, and they’ve had a good time in. But the truth is, it’s reached the end of its useful life. 

“The way I see it, the shell has to be reinstated and we have to work together to find an internal use.”

"Consultation has to be meaningful"

However, Deputy Binet added that he did not feel more public consultation was needed.

“We talk about consultation but I’m led to believe that there’s already been a lot of consultation over the course of time and I’m a little bit worried about going out for another round of consultation when we’ve already got a number of ideas about what people want.

Future Fort Regent plans.png

Pictured: Proposals from a 2021 plan for the future of the Fort - one of several commissioned over the years.

“Another thing that worries me is that you can go out and ask people what they want, and you can have a list as long as your arm. But that consultation has to be meaningful, in so far as the information you get back has to be applicable to the site. 

“We need to know what is actually possible in there before you start asking people if they want X, Y and Z, only to turn around and tell them that you can’t do it because the site is not compatible.”

Not Minister's intention to "produce another report"

The Minister also shared his hesitancy over the decision of the Ministerial Future Places Group to commission Jersey Development Company to write a report about future uses for the Fort.

He said: “Future Places, in their wisdom, has given JDC the go-ahead to produce another report. I have to say, that wasn’t really my intention. What I wanted to do is work with the people within my department and the sports department, who have some intimate knowledge of the situation, to come up with some ideas as to what they thought was practical and deliverable. 

“I believe we have a lot of the answers we need in-house, and it’s a lot cheaper to do it that way. JDC is producing its report, but we are doing some internal work ourselves in parallel.”

He added that a previous JDC report had concluded that a privately financed plan for the Fort would only be viable with the inclusion of a casino but the financial benefit of one had waned since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

A number of sports clubs that have moved out of the Fort will be based in a yet-to-be built centre at Oakfield off Wellington Road. Deputy Binet said that he hoped that a contractor would be in place by the end of the year and the facility would be open by mid-2025.


Internationally-renowned Fort roof ‘must be protected’

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Fort dome doomed as part of major refurb plans

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

FOCUS: Casino and hotel Fort plans met with public shrug 

End of era for sport at the Fort as £100m multi-facility plans unveiled

New centre proposed at Fort or Waterfront to help arts thrive

"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...

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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.

Once your comment has been submitted, it won’t appear immediately. There is no need to submit it more than once. Comments are published at the discretion of Bailiwick Publishing, and will include your username.

Posted by Jetz Maddox on
You forgot to mention that the Vaccination Centre is still operational.
Posted by Keith Marsh on
Stop talking about it and writing reports for all to read ~ just get on and REPAIR . REBUILD it.
Posted by Jetz Maddox on
You forgot to mention that the Vaccination Centre is still operational.
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