Plans to build an £800m new hospital by the end of 2026 have been thrown into doubt after an application to demolish existing buildings at Overdale was rejected this morning.
The Planning Committee's unanimous decision also raises a question mark over whether the project will be approved before the June election, which will see a new Council of Ministers coming in.
However, Senator Lyndon Farnham - the Minister with responsibility for the project - has since stated that he doesn't believe the project will be affected.
“We do not foresee this decision having a material impact on the overall timeline of the delivery of the new hospital," he commented.
“Our focus remains on the main planning application, which has been submitted and will also deal with the demolition requirements and will be the subject of a planning inquiry in April.”
Refusing plans to demolish all 20 buildings at the Westmount site over three phases between April and next January, the Planning Committee of five politicians' principal concerns were that the application - which they had to assess in isolation and not as part of the wider Hospital project - would involve the destruction of buildings that were still fit for purpose and it would be wrong to decide on demolition before its replacement had been approved.
“This is a case of putting the cart before the horse,” a number of them said.
Meeting this morning, the committee - Deputies Graham Truscott, Jeremy Maçon, Kirsten Morel and Steve Luce, and Constable Marcus Troy - opened the floor to five-minute representations from those both for and against the demolition.
These included residents, St. Helier officials, members of the Friends of Our New Hospital campaign group, Health’s Medical Director Patrick Armstrong and representatives of the Our Hospital Project team.
After a very brief adjournment to reach a decision, the committee returned to a packed and tense St. Paul’s Centre.
One by one they revealed their decision, followed by a short explanation why.
And one by one, they said they would reject the application, which was against the recommendation of the planning officer that it should be approved.
Deputy Truscott cited health and safety reasons as well as his concern that the application preceded the public inquiry into the Our Hospital application.
This was shared by Constable Troy, who said he had always pledged to put “people before politics”.
Deputy Morel said that while he had initially been satisfied by an extra planning condition that three newer buildings still in use - the Westmount Centre, the Poplars Day Centre and the William Knott building - would have to remain until the Our Hospital application had been approved, he was concerned about the demolition work that would go on around them.
Deputy Luce also reiterated a shared belief that demolishing these three facilities went against a policy in the current Island Plan which states that fit-for-purpose buildings should not be demolished.
One of a number of objectors who spoke at the meeting was former States Greffier Michael de la Haye, who urged the committee to ask Environment Minister John Young to add the demolition application to the terms of reference of the forthcoming planning inquiry.
Speaking in support of the application, Mr Armstrong said that residents and others with an active interest in the Our Hospital project had been part of an extensive consultation process.
He added that studies had been carried out to look at the viability of using existing buildings during the demolition and building phase but these had shown the plan to be unavailable, which is why all services would be moving to the former Les Quennevais School.
Afterwards, Peter Funk, who leads the Friends of Our New Hospital group, said: “This application should have never been brought.
“It was always the case that it would be foolish to agree to demolition before you’ve decided what will be built afterwards, and that remains far from certain.”
A public inquiry by an independent inspector into the Our Hospital planning application will begin on Monday 4 April.
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