Politicians will not get to see any “meaningful visuals or designs” of how a £15m roadworks project paving the way for a new hospital at Overdale will look before they vote on it next month – because none exist yet.
Deputy Chief Minister Senator Lyndon Farnham admitted this week that no diagram has yet been created of how Westmount will look after its transformation into a wider, two-way access route, which will involve the removal of the Bowls Club.
He said that those would only come if the States Assembly approve the ‘Our Hospital: Preferred Access Route’ proposals, which are scheduled for debate on 9 February.
Grilled by St. Helier Deputy Inna Gardiner, whose constituency includes the area, in this week’s States Assembly meeting, Senator Farnham said: “Once a preferred access route has been agreed by the Assembly, the design team can then commence the detailed design of that route as part of the planning application process and will also be able to, importantly, continue design of the hospital building itself.
“In short, a brand-new road it is proposed will be created, it will be a high quality reduced gradient, safer with broader pavements and cycle paths access but of course, the detail of the design, the design, the impact on the air and the environment are very much planning issues and I don’t think it would be appropriate for the States to be involved in that level of detail at this stage. I think we have to agree the principle and then let the planning process deal with the details.I am not sure it is as simple as drawing a picture of a road. I think we all know what roads look like, what good quality roads look like and really, before we can produce meaningful visuals, they do have to complete, or at least start working, on detailed and design itself.
“Once the States- if the States, approve the principle of the access via Westmount Road, then that work can begin in earnest and once they get started we can then start sharing some meaningful visuals and designs.”
Pictured: The primary access route has been one of the most prominent questions hanging over the new hospital project.
Deputy Gardiner, however, responded by making the point that other plans yet to be given formal approval - such as SOJDC’s proposals to transform the Waterfront - had included detailed visuals.
Deputy Mike Higgins, also a St. Helier representative, asked for a diagram showing the impact on the park below Westmount. He noted that any encroachment might lead States Members to vote against the plan.
Maintaining that he was “certainly not being evasive”, the Minister suggested that some individuals “with an interest” had created and circulated their own visuals, presenting a view that “couldn’t be further from the truth.”
He went on to emphasise that, of all the options assessed, the route being proposed “produced the least environmental impact, it produced the least environmental destruction by quite some margin, much less than going up from the Inner Road, which would have cost not only more environmental damage but also disruption to many more homes.”
“We will endeavour to provide as much information as possible but it is simply impossible to provide a detailed visuals without proper design work being started and to do that we need the approval of the Assembly,” he added.
Residents living in the area began raising concerns about the impact of potential large-scale roadworks after the confirmation of Overdale as the preferred site for the new hospital last year.
They held a number of Town Hall meetings, which were attended by Senator Farnham, and chaired by Constable of the Parish, Simon Crowcroft.
Many individuals said at the time that they did not feel enough information was being provided about how the landscape was expected to change, and the potential impact on those living nearby who would suddenly find themselves neighbouring a main road.
Others spoke of the potential loss of history from the area once known as ‘Gallows Hill’, which is also where Major Pierson assembled the troops ahead of the attack on the French troops in the Battle of Jersey on 6 January 1781.
Defenders of the area have now banded together in a 400-strong Facebook group called ‘Guardians of Westmount Road and People’s Park’.
They are encouraging States Members to take a walk up Westmount Road throughout this month to “understand what will be lost by doubling the width” of the road.
Senator Kristina Moore, who is leading a Scrutiny Review on the proposed access route, completed the walk earlier in the month and invited Senator Farnham to do the same on Twitter.
On 9th February @StatesAssembly will be asked to agree to turn Westmount Rd into a 12m wide access route to Overdale for the hospital. Walking this historic route gives perspective to the plans @lyndonfarnham Can I suggest you walk this too before the debate pls pic.twitter.com/mRtFoKHaMo— Kristina Moore (@Moore4Jersey) January 9, 2021
Launching her review last year, Senator Moore said: "It’s crucial that we establish any limitations to the access road now before building work commences," Chief Scrutineer, Senator Kristina Moore, commented.
“The Panel needs to provide assurance to all those affected by this proposed option that the 70+ options were assessed appropriately and that the best option is the one that is being put forward.”
The Preferred Access Route proposals state that the "specific costs to deliver the off-site highways and junction upgrades is estimated to be £15.1m", but that there will be additional costs from acquiring sites for access works. Overall, the Future Hospital budget - including contingency costs - sits at £800m.
A recent response to a Freedom of Information request revealed that, up to the end of November 2020, £9.2m has been spent on the Our Hospital project. £19,500 of that expenditure has specifically been linked to Overdale as the preferred site.
Senator Farnham appeared before the Future Hospital Review Panel this morning to face further questions. You can watch his exchanges with the panel here.
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