A group of Westmount residents is taking action to ensure no work can start on the new hospital highway until the Parish has received more details about the plans.
A requête - a way of forcing a Parish Assembly - is now being signed and will soon be served on the Constable of St. Helier to ensure any purchases of Parish land cannot go through until more information about the proposed access route to the new hospital is received.
Advocate Olaf Blakeley, spokesperson for residents in the area, said the group had decided to take action in the wake of a move from Deputy Chief Minister Senator Lyndon Farnham to force an early vote on whether Westmount Road should be widened to access the new Overdale health facility despite concerns over the lack of detailed visuals presented to States Members.
Describing the move as "unacceptable conduct", Advocate Blakeley said it was "wholly unacceptable that any members of government could be requested to vote in favour of a proposition which is vacuous of content."
The residents' requête states that the States Assembly agreed the acquisition by compulsory purchase of Parish land in November 2020 based on a drawing that didn’t precisely define which part of People’s Park, the century-old Westmount bowling green with its clubhouse, carpark, gardens and workshops, the historic rocky outcrop on Gallows Hill, and other green spaces, would be affected.
“At no time has the Parish Assembly been given either the opportunity to consider sufficient detail of what the acquisition will involve in the way of vehicular, amenity, cultural or community impact or the opportunity to give its approval either to said acquisition itself or the possible financial or other terms (if any) on which it might take place,” the legal notice reads.
“Having learned what information can be deduced from such material as has come into the public domain, very many Parishioners are of the view that the proposed access route to the new hospital, and the works associated therewith, will cause disproportionate and irreparable damage to what is one of the few distinctive and important parts of the island’s capital, and should be rigorously opposed.”
Pictured: The Jersey Bowling Club would have to go, under the plans to widen Westmount Road.
They are therefore asking the Constable to prevent any work from being done on the land until the Parish has confirmed to a future Parish Assembly it has received the required details, which have been repeatedly requested by Parishioners.
They are also asking that the Parish oppose any land purchase until those details have been provided.
In a statement issued around 21:00 last night, Senator Farnham defended the decision to push ahead with an early States Assembly meeting on the basis that an amendment brought by the Future Hospital Review Panel calling for more information would lead to an expensive and "unnecessary delay" that could put "the whole project at risk."
The Panel's calls for more information have been backed by the 'Friends of Our New Hospital' pressure group, who insisted last that the Council of Ministers should willingly release full details of the plans and costs for the proposed access route to Overdale. If this doesn't happen, they said all States Members should back their amendment when it goes to the vote on Monday.
Pictured: The planned road could be up to 12 metres wide.
Group representative Peter Funk said: “The Friends are not opposed to Overdale as the site for the new Hospital. We are strongly opposed by what little we have seen of the access plans. £38.7 million may not seem a lot of money in comparison to the £800 million agreed without debate by the States for the new Hospital so far but it is time for the States members to stop committing funds in principle without full disclosure and debate. States members must stop dispensing our pounds like confetti at some grand wedding."
One of the Friends' and Westmount residents' key concerns is that officials working on the hospital project have previously stated that the key function of the 12-metre-wide road will be to allow construction vehicles to access the Overdale site. They are therefore baffled by the urgency of the vote, particularly when final road access will only be required in five to six years' time following construction of the hospital.
In the absence of a "coherent" justification for the road overhaul and full and accurate plans, the group is staging a campaign this weekend to give islanders a sense of what could be lost if the plans are approved.
Pictured: How the Friends believe the road could look.
Starting this morning and continuing over the weekend, the Friends have decided to begin marking the outline of the proposed route with red tape.
With the help of local architects, the Friends have created a map showing the possible route of the proposed 12m road.
Meanwhile, the Guardians of Westmount Road and People’s Park have been tying red ribbons around the trees deemed to be at risk in the area.
Tamara Vanmeggelen, who lives at the top of the hill and is part of the Group, said the initiative aimed to give people "a visual of the level of the destruction."
While the Government refuses to produce a diagram of what the road will look like, the Group believes more than 50 trees will be disappearing.
Pictured: Some of the ribbons tied so far.
"I live at the top of Westmount Hill and I just feel passionate about saving the park and green space in town because it’s a very precious commodity and when this park is gone, it’s gone and if we just keep encroaching on it and making it smaller and smaller and have this big road that they are planning to envelop the park, it will really diminish its value to everybody," Mrs Vanmeggelen said.
"The States Members are debating proposition P167 that has been expedited to Monday, so we are just trying to get awareness out so that people contact States Members at this time when we can’t protest in person because it’s not safe to do so, to just have a visual reminder, as well as our Facebook outreach, to have people speak out and make sure the States Members know that we do care about the green space in town."
Pictured: According to the plans, an extra lane would be required on Pierson Road.
Despite residing in the area that would be affected by the proposed roadworks, Mrs Vanmeggelen said she only heard about Westmount Road being the preferred access route on 6 October, when Senator Farnham announced that Overdale was the preferred site for the new hospital. Since then she says the Government has been less than forthcoming with information.
"That was very much a surprise to us," she said. "Then thereafter, we spent the next several weeks trying to make it know that there were a number of residents who were affected and were being told, ‘You are not affected don’t worry.' From there, we got an admission we were affected, we have had a couple of firm letters and then now, of course, we have a communication team, Soundings, that has ran two Zoom meetings."
Pictured: The group does not want to see People's Park reduced to a postage stamp.
She continued: "However, they say very little about the road access because they use the very convenient lie that there is no design for the road and therefore they can’t talk about it and they are always very cagey on the webcast. What’s interesting is we had a Zoom call last night with them and they showed four different potential diagrams of what the hospital itself might look like and yet not one diagram or visual for the road, a road of which surveyors and engineers have been crawling all over for the last two months, of which they can verbally tell us it will need an extra lane on Pierson Road, 12 metres wide on Westmount, will go through the bowling green, will absolutely take out three homes, surely you can give us a design of what that looks like?
"It’s interesting they can tell you it’s going to be £38.7 million with land acquisition from the Parish and private land owners for that, so it’s interesting they have done no design, no analysis but they seem to know exactly what the cost is."
Pictured: "With 12 meters of Westmount Road, you are carving out most of that hill," Mrs Vanmeggelen said.
"They have done no traffic analysis they admit so they have no idea what the impact of this new super road is going to be with all this traffic funnelling through Cheapside and going through town or at the hop of the hill. States Members do need this level of information before voting for something of such an expense that is going to materially alter the west side of the town.
"With 12 metres of Westmount Road, you are carving out most of that hill. It’s going to really change the entire townscape. If you think about the town it’s bordered on the east by a hill and on the west by a hill and they are materially changing what that looks like."
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