St. Helier Deputies have voiced their concerns about a lack of preparation from Government to build more schools to accommodate the growing population.
Speaking during a hearing examining the proposed short-term Island Plan, which will act as a blueprint for new development across the island over the coming years, Deputy Inna Gardiner and Deputy Rob Ward raised the point that a review into potential new school sites had not been completed ahead of the plan.
The current draft bridging island plan notes that "a review of the education estate, is likely to lead to significant changes to the structure and delivery of education in the island and the infrastructure that is required to support it", which would focus on "potential increase in demand for places in Town and the spatial constraints that surround primary education in the Town area, especially the south and the west."
Pictured: Deputy Gardiner suggested policies could be put in place alongside housing ensuring infrastructure like education is provided for children living there.
It states that this would factor into the subsequent Island Plan in 2025 or sooner, rather than the current one, however.
On the topic of potential school sites, Deputy Inna Gardiner said that she had flagged the decision to reserve the land around the old St. Saviour Hospital for affordable housing, which she said she was "not against", but was concerned the issue of education for those who would live in them had not been thought about properly.
"St. Saviour's Hospital site is good site for affordable housing, but if we are thinking about schools in the area - St. Martin's School is full, Grouville School is, so it’s not just St. Helier and St. Saviour Schools, it’s also neighbouring parishes," she remarked.
Deputy Gardiner added that the Minister had hadn't given her "any timelines when the [school site review] would be concluded" beyond a suggestion that it could be in June, meaning a year's delay.
She also emphasised that the decision appeared to go against a States Assembly decision to not allocate any further sites for housing until future school sites are clear.
In supporting the proposal, which was backed by the Education Minister, politicians also agreed that every site in Government ownership in St. Helier and St. Saviour that could become a school should not be allocated for another purpose until Education’s review of its town estate is completed.
Deputy Gardiner noted that "there are several policies in the UK that any major development should submit requirement, should submit justification as to how they will support education," suggesting the creation of "other policies" on the island to ensure infrastructure is created for a growing population of children in an area.
"What’s clear for me, we cannot continue to build without places where children can go to school," she added.
Pictured: Deputy Rob Ward said he would go as far as to say he didn't know "how you can produce the bridging island plan without [the] school sites review."
Similarly, when discussing plans for a new youth centre alongside the educational facilities, Deputy Rob Ward also made a point there had been a lack of forward thinking.
"We don’t yet, and I think the lack of a decision on the school sites in St Helier, and the lack of a school sites review I think is getting in the way of so many areas, and actually I will go as far as to say, I don’t know how you can produce the bridging island plan without that school sites review," he said.
"And I think it’s a real shame that school sites review wasn’t completed, with clear drivers from CYPES in terms of where they want to put schools and so on, before the bridging island plan could be developed and decisions made around it, because I think the two go hand in hand.
"And what we face if we’re not careful is disjointed decision making for the centre of St Helier at a time when the population of St Helier is going to grow and grow and there will be lots of families there."
In regards to the Deputies' points about growing population, Head of Place and Spatial Planning Kevin Pilley made the point that Jersey was different to the UK in terms of inward migration
"Unlike the UK where you may have development activity which may attract new in-migrants and therefore new children into a new local authority, education area, clearly in Jersey we have effectively a captive audience and our colleagues in Children, Young People and Education deal with the modelling of the demographic requirement for education facilities across the island as a whole, and then within that they look at the management of local catchments.
He added that: "It’s a different context to that in the UK in the sense that the children who are going to live in those areas are either in the island already and going to school - or through the population modelling that our colleagues in education do, they will be forecasting the need to provide education facilities to meet the need of the next cohort of island schoolchildren," he said.
Senior Planning Policy Officer Natasha Day later added that if proposals from the Minister for primary school development came back in timeframe of the bridging plan, there would be scope to build.
"Because these sites sit within the built up area, the plan automatically would enable and facilitate their delivery - subject to the more complex issues of how Government allocates its land for different purposes," she said.
The current draft 'Bridging Island Plan' outlines that proposals for the development of additional educational facilities or for the extension and/or alteration of existing educational premises will be supported provided that the proposal is:
within the grounds of existing education facilities;
on a safeguarded site;
or within the built-up area.
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