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Westmount Road approved as new hospital highway

Westmount Road approved as new hospital highway

Tuesday 02 February 2021

Westmount Road approved as new hospital highway

Tuesday 02 February 2021


Politicians have approved controversial proposals to extend Westmount Road to make it the main route to the new hospital.

The decision comes after a week of public debate on the road, with residents, members of the public and politicians alike expressing their concerns as to what effects the work could have on the surrounding area.

Despite the proposal’s victory with 34 votes to 11, deep concern and skepticism was still a prominent theme throughout the debate.

Senator Kristina Moore, who as head of the Future Hospital Review Panel had earlier unsuccessfully tried to amend the proposal to get more detail about the access road, said that she would still oppose the proposition itself.

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Pictured: There were fears over how much the plans would cost from both Senator Kristina Moore and Assistant Economic Development Minister Kirsten Morel.

“I maintain the position that it is a folly that we have got to this position,” Senator Moore said. “The hospital has to be fit for purpose for the future, and affordability fits in with that.

“When the Assembly rescinded the Gloucester Street plans, many Members said that the next project would have to be cheaper. Instead, it is also double the cost.

“This Assembly is walking down a dangerous path; it has not managed to gain the confidence of the public and these plans could still fall at the Planning hurdle.

“With the pandemic, our economy is in a different place and we are now saddling our children and grandchildren with a 40-year debt which they will have to pay for.”

Senator Moore was not the only one who still had their reservations despite the plans going through; Assistant Economic Development Minister Kirsten Morel also voted against the access road plan. 

“If this proposition before us was more clearly described in terms of the scheme going forward and its costs, I would be happier,” he said. “The plan before us opened us up to millions of pounds of expenditure. 

“The only certainty that we have is that the cost has multiplied. Money is at the base of my doubts.”

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Pictured: Constable Simon Crowcroft voted against the proposition, stating that he had to remain neutral when negotiating over land with the Government.

Also voting against it was St. Helier Constable Simon Crowcroft, although he stressed this was because he was now moving to a position of negotiating over land with the Government on behalf of his parish, so he had to remain neutral.

Addressing the concerns about cost, the politicians in charge of the project, Senator Lyndon Farnham said: "Gloucester Street was a non-starter and it is unfair to compare cost of two facilities. 

“The site has now been found have been too small and we would have run out of space by 2035. The Overdale site is 30% bigger and will have everything on one site.

“The price has gone up but only due to inflation and because we have dithered as an Assembly. The price bracket is £550m to £800m and it will remain so.

“And even though it will be funded by borrowing, this is not debt but an investment in the future - not just in bricks, mortar and land but but also health and wellbeing of islanders."

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Pictured: Deputy Chief Minister Senator Lyndon Farnham argued that the borrowing costs were an investment in the future, not debt.

He added: “The access road is estimated to cost £15.1m, not the £30m that some Members have mentioned. We will also look closely at Option 6 [to keep the existing road] and it could be a blend of that and Option 7 [the new, widened road]. 

“Some people have questioned our motives in this debate, but our motives are not questionable: it is simply to build and deliver a fully functional hospital by end of 2026.” 

The 11 States Members that voted against the overall Westmount Road access plans were: Constable Simon Crowcroft, Mike Jackson and John Le Maistre, Deputies Inna Gardiner, Mary Le Hegarat, Kirsten Morel, Kevin Pamplin and Jess Perchard, and Senator Steve Pallett and Deputy Steve Luce of the newly-formed Progress Party.

The final decision came after the Future Hospital Review Panel's amendment to the proposal, requiring detailed designs of the road to be presented to the Assembly before voting, was rejected.  

During that debate, the Chief Minister said the panel's proposal would lead to the Assembly being “mired in inordinate detail” which would “risk us becoming a 49-member planning or roadway engineering committee”, and even suggested the delay imposed by the hospital project panel having to draw up more detailed plans even risked "killing" the future hospital project altogether.

Following a debate on the amendment that took up nearly the entire day, Chief Scrutineer Senator Kristina Moore used her closing remarks to re-emphasise her concerns about the lack of detail in the current plans, suggesting “shortcuts” were being taken. 

“The intention of this amendment is not to meddle or micromanage, we are seeking reassurance to keep this critical project on track, not to delay it,” Senator Moore said.

“This project will go to a planning process, but in order to be confident in the chances of the application, why can we not be better informed?

“As an assembly, we do not seek to be a planning authority, however we do speak for the people, as we all know people really are about this matter. 

“The people value the environment of Westmount, they value the impact it has on the townscape, and they want to understand the impact how this proposal will impact upon on it.”

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Pictured: Senator Kristina Moore warned that the public needed clarity and confidence in the people behind the new hospital project.

On Senator Lyndon Farnham's claims that, even if the road was to go up to 12 metres wide, it would not be like a UK road, she questioned: "How does he know if he has not seen an illustration?"

She further questioned why the Government was not using software she was aware it held that would be able to draw up a more detailed visual in a matter of mere hours to give States Members a better idea of what the proposed changes would look like.

She further warned: “I urge members to be very careful when members of this project are changing their story with such great frequency. We and the public need clarity and confidence that his project will get done under their oversight.”

26 States Members ended up voting against the amendment, and 21 in favour.

Deputy John Young declined to participate in either vote because, as Environment Minister, he will eventually be responsible for having the final say on the single 'all or nothing' hospital and highway planning application.

Despite the result of yesterday's vote, the Westmount plans are still facing a further challenge.

Last week, a group of Westmount residents unhappy at the way the situation had been handled, drew up a requête to force a Parish Assembly and ensure they were given detailed plans before any purchases of land from the Parish of St. Helier can go through. 

Over the weekend, spokesperson for the group, Advocate Olaf Blakeley, posted a video on YouTube criticising the approach taken by the Deputy Chief Minister on Westmount, which has since garnered nearly 3,500 views.

CLICK HERE for a 'blow-by-blow' account of the debate over the Future Hospital Review Panel's amendment.

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Comments

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Posted by IanSmith97 on
If you can get a bus up and down it what is wrong with the current two lane road?
Posted by Keith Marsh on
Another example of Jersey's broken "politics".
A bad decision steamrollered through the States ~ as senior Ministers scare States Members to vote "for".
Posted by Jon Jon on
Think some of these politicians like Farnham and co are looking at next years election,so will steamroll this through .Its just ridiculous this site ,I hope owners of property affected hold out!
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