The Government's own Planning Department is recommending that the application to build an £800m new hospital at Overdale is rejected.
In a major development to the long-running saga, it has concluded that the proposal's harms are "so great" that they outweigh "even the very significant benefits generated by the proposal."
The Senior Planning Officer charged with reviewing all evidence and making a recommendation to be considered by an independent planning inspector, and ultimately the Environment Minister, found that the application would result in “serious unacceptable harm to the character of the site, its immediate surrounding area and, indeed, large areas of the south coast.”
In a ‘Proof of Evidence’ document, which will form a key part of a planning inquiry due to be held next month, Chris Jones, representing Planning, writes: “It is the role of the inspector to weigh the benefits and harms of the proposal and to form a recommendation to the Minister.
“Taken in the round, the department concludes that the harms which have been identified are so great that they would outweigh even the very significant benefits generated by the proposal. With regret, the application cannot be supported.”
Specific concerns include:
the development “fails to demonstrate a high quality of design which conserves, protects and contributes positively to the distinctiveness of the landscape and wider setting of the site”;
the height and scale of the proposal, and its dominant impact on the skyline. Proposed landscaping and planting will fail to mitigate against this;
it does not meet key tests set out in a specific policy relating to the new hospital included in the draft Bridging Island Plan. This includes demonstrating that “the proposed development represents the best design option relative to be needs of the hospital and the land available”;
the location means that there will be too much reliance on car journeys and it will be difficult to access for those wishing to use alternative methods of transport;
the application fails to include solutions for surface water drainage, the replacement of the Jersey Bowls Club or the replacement of the 12 homes which will be lost.
In a further blow to the project, the Government's Historic Environment team has said it "offers the strongest objection" to the plans.
This is because of the "mass, scale, quantum and significance of the development on this highly visible hilltop location which would require the demolition of two designated listed buildings and detrimentally impact the setting of many others."
Pictured: All evidence, including the submission by Planning, will be reviewed by independent inspector Philip Staddon next month.
In response to Planning’s recommendation for rejection, Peter Funk, the interim chair of the Friends of Our New Hospital group, said that the building – which he said would be the largest in the Channel Islands and double the size of the current hospital – should never have been proposed to be built on top of a hill overlooking town and the south coast.
“We believe that the hospital project is illustrative of everything that is wrong with our government system,’ he said. “It has been mishandled from the outset and at every stage since the project began in 2011/12.
“This has been a politically motivated project from the start, despite denials from the Chief Minister and members of the Political Oversight Group. They have done everything they can to manipulate the project to their own ends.”
The ‘Proof of Evidence’ will now be reviewed by independent planning inspector Philip Staddon, who is holding a week-long planning inquiry into the hospital application at the beginning of next month.
The deadline for written submissions closed on Sunday, meaning that the Government can now only make verbal submissions at the inquiry to enhance the evidence it has already submitted.
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