The Bailiff was involved in decision-making over £3m plans to merge Liberation Square and the Weighbridge, the Infrastructure Minister revealed as he was grilled over the status of the controversial project.
The suggested revamp, which is hoped to be complete in time for the island’s Liberation 75 celebrations next year, were announced by the Minister, Deputy Kevin Lewis, in December of last year.
So far, £100,000 has been spent on the plans, which involve getting rid of the road between the two squares, creating “one large, improved public amenity space,” as well as a pétanque court, an events plaza and a serpentine, and were released for public consultation last month.
Pictured: An overview of the proposed revamp of the combined public space in the heart of St. Helier (Department of Infrastructure).
But the plans haven't been met with full approval from islanders or politicians. The island's key business lobby group, the Chamber of Commerce, criticised the plans. Meanwhile, Deputy Jeremy Maçon, who slammed the proposals as a "vanity project", has launched a bid to halt the project by publishing proposals to be voted on by the States Assembly.
This week, the Infrastructure Minister was grilled about the plans by the Environment, Housing and Infrastructure Scrutiny Panel, alongside officers from his department.
Chris Sampson, the former Director for Capital Projects, said that all plans have been put on hold until the outcome of the debate on Deptuy Maçon’s proposals on 21 May, even though the Infrastructure Department is in a position to submit a planning application.
He told the Scrutiny panel that the project had not been “very well received” by the public and the feedback had not been “so supportive”.
Pictured: John Rogers, the Director General of Growth, Housing and Environment, argued that the project aimed to create a new public realm.
John Rogers, the Director General of Growth, Housing and Environment, said that the Infrastructure department was on the “backfoot” again because of a minority of islanders. “No matter how good your plans are, no matter how virtuous… they can be disrupted by a small group of people," he said.
He said the department intended to run a trial before the debate, but that it would be phased so as to show islanders it wasn't the case that “everything was terrible".
Deputy Kirsten Morel repeatedly asked where the original decision had come from and who had made it, but the Minister kept his replies vague. He first said he had inherited the plans in his portfolio before eventually admitting the decision was made by the Council of Ministers, following “input from the Bailiff".
It was suggested to the department that a portion of what is proposed to be spent on the merger could instead go towards the renovation costs of Liberation Square.
Pictured: John Rogers said that people were once opposed to plans to develop Millennium Park.
Mr Rogers however argued that the project aimed to create a new public realm not only for Liberation 75, which he said will be the last major anniversary that people who lived the Occupation would be able attend, but for all the other events going on in the square.
He said the project would bring long-term benefits to islanders and that department should be “brave” in moving things forward. Referring to the controversy that surrounded the creation of Millennium Park, Mr Rogers said that at the time people “couldn’t believe we could do away with the car park and piece of gravel that was there” but that it turned into a great asset.
It was also revealed during the hearing that £100,000 of the £3 million budget for the project had been spent and that plans to get money from the Jersey Development Company had yet to be approved by the Treasury Minister.
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.