Millbrook Playing Field has been sold by the philanthropic Boot family for £700,000 to a mystery individual – who is planning on gifting it back to Jersey.
The land along Victoria Avenue, which was transformed into the site of a Nightingale Wing last May but has since been returned, was purchased by Havilland (Jersey) Holdings Ltd in a transaction that passed through the Royal Court on 12 November.
Infrastructure Minister Deputy Kevin Lewis then indicated to States Members in a report published this week that he intended to accept the land as a ‘gift’ on behalf of the public of the island.
Emma Houston, one of the 11 cousins related to the Boots family who sold the field, told Express it was “excellent news” that the buyer was gifting the land – “and one that my great grandparents would have hugely approved of!”
The individual behind new owner Havilland Holdings Ltd, which was registered on 26 October 2021 to 44 Esplanade in St. Helier, is not public. Express contacted their legal representative earlier this week but did not receive a reply.
Pictured: Florence and Jesse Boot.
Express understands that the site – which has not been earmarked for development in the draft short-term Island Plan – will not be built on and that further plans will be announced in the New Year. Upgrade works to the neighbouring Coronation Park’s 84-year-old paddling pool are currently in motion.
However, the Government is remaining tight-lipped on the future of the site for now, having declined to respond to several questions.
“We have been generously offered the vast majority of the site at Millbrook as a gift to the public of Jersey. It would not be right to comment further before the land transaction is completed,” Deputy Lewis said.
The field was originally owned by Jersey-born Florence Boot, a philanthropist who married Boots heir Jesse Boot, whom she met while holidaying on the island in the 1800s. It was one of many significant plots provided to the public for exercise and wellbeing, alongside FB Fields and the neighbouring Coronation Park.
Although a prime site, in line with the Boot pair’s wishes, Millbrook Playing Field has remained as a green lung for decades, looked after by a group of cousins who inherited it from their mothers – Florence and Jesse’s grandchildren.
Pictured: Florence and Jesse Boot's descendants help unveil a plaque in Jersey, thanking the philanthropic pair for their gift of Coronation Park.
The only major development it has ever hosted was the Nightingale Wing, created within weeks and opened in May 2020 as ‘insurance’ if the hospital were to become overwhelmed by covid cases. Fortunately, it did not have to be used.
To enable the development, the land was licensed to the government - Havilland Holdings Ltd now has responsibility for that licence, receiving any associated fee payments until the gifting is complete.
In July, it was announced as one of five sites shortlisted for the new hospital – much to the disappointment of St. Lawrence Constable Deirdre Mezbourian, who launched an official bid to get it thrown off the list.
However, by September, Millbrook had been deemed unsuitable and the list was whittled down to Overdale and People’s Park.
Pictured: The former Nightingale Wing.
When they temporarily handed the site to government to create a Nightingale Wing, the Boot family only did so on the condition that the land would be restored to its original state for public enjoyment.
“…Green space is terribly important,” Emma Houston told Express at the time.
“Especially in that little area, there are remarkably few green spaces, and it’s very important that your little island, which is so beautiful, isn’t completely covered in buildings….
"I personally think it would be very sad for the field to be built on. If you’re driving along the Inner Road, it’s the only bit you can see the sea from.”
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