Politicians are feeling "threatened" and “browbeaten” into making decisions about the future hospital without having all the necessary information, a former Assistant Health Minister has claimed.
Senator Steve Pallett says States Members are being told they will jeopardise the future hospital project if they ask too many questions, and feel as if the Government is putting a "gun to their heads" to avoid any delays.
His comments came after Deputy Chief Minister Senator Lyndon Farnham said he wasn’t able to share any “meaningful visuals” of what the Westmount access route will look like, as none have been created.
The Senator 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.
Pictured: The Government has so far refused to provide any detailed drawing of what the proposed access route will look like.
Senator Pallett said in the absence of any visuals, he won’t be able to support the proposition.
“They are not giving us the information to make a decision or support them,” he said.
“We need to be kept up to date and it is not happening. Unless somebody provides me with some detail about the damage to People’s Park, I am not going to vote for that access road. I need to know what is going to happen, because what I don’t want to see is People’s Park halved in size or damaged to a degree it is not the amenity it is now
“The Government is saying they cannot provide the detail drawing, but we do not want the detailed drawing. Just show us the area you are going to take to provide the access road. We’ve heard rumours but we need to know, that’s not too much to ask when you are asking us to vote on a £30 million to £40 million access road.
“It’s a huge amount of money for a road, never mind the £800 million for the hospital, which we hear is going up every day.”
Pictured: Some States Members are becoming suspicious due to the lack of transparency around the plans.
The lack of transparency over the plans has led to suspicions among some States Members, who fear that area affected could actually be worse than what the Government has so far said.
“Put their minds at rest, be clear about the land you use and the damage you are going to cause,” Senator Pallett said.
Senator Pallett said the access road issue is one of many challenges resulting from the decision to build the new hospital at Overdale.
He said he had been surprised to hear Les Quennevais School was being considered as a short-term replacement for Overdale. The former school will be refurbished this year, if plans are approved, at a cost of £10million with services moving there in early 2022 so that work can start at Overdale.
“We have known the concerns around that building for years,” he said. “We know it had asbestos, there are lots of narrow corridors and narrow staircases. It’s also in poor condition although the main building is in worst condition than the low-rise part.
“I live there, I was the Constable for St. Brelade, so I know the issues around parking and traffic around the area. I am not saying Les Quennevais is not the right place but it’s a bit like the access road, provide us with all the correct information and then we can make a decision.”
Pictured: The former Les Quennevais School will act as a short-term replacement for Overdale during the building work.
“We really do need to have some information about whether that site can cope with the level of parking and traffic before any planning application is being made.”
Contacted by Express, the Government said they would intend to make a planning application which “complies, as far as possible, with the Island Plan, so that there are no reasonable grounds to refuse the application”. Senator Pallett however says a planning application shouldn’t be taken for granted.
“I find that comment quite strange, why say that because something complies with the Island Plan it will be approved? People can object and people will object to whatever Planning application goes on that site.
“The residents in that area have been blighted by parking issues, they thought they had gotten rid of them and now they are finding out it’s going to haunt them for another five years.”
However, he says this is not the only thing the Government is taking for granted when it comes to the future hospital project.
Pictured: “They have got a day for a spade to go in the ground and they are working backwards from it, that’s not the process," Senator Pallett said.
“We are being told it’s all about the timeline,” he said. “No, it is about getting it right and making sure we are following the process. We all want to see a new hospital, but it should not be at any cost and it is beginning to look a lot like this. It’s not the way to go about things.
“The time frame is being put ahead of everything else and it’s starting to stretch the patience of States Members because we are being told what is going to happen rather than making a decision about what is going to happen. This is not the way to get support, to get support you need to work collaboratively with people and stop surprising or ambushing them with whatever your next decision is.
“Do not just presume that because we need a new hospital, anything goes. Some States Members feel the Government is putting a gun to our heads, and it’s beginning to feel like it. We are being browbeaten into making decisions.
“They have got a day for a spade to go in the ground and they are working backwards from it, that’s not the process. They say that at the moment, one little hiccup and it goes down the drain, I am afraid that with this kind of projects, hiccups happen and you have to deal with them.
“We are being threatened that if we ask questions, we are jeopardising the hospital. No, we are trying to protect the taxpayer and make sure they get the right hospital, in the right place, knowing all the information. I don’t think it’s unreasonable?
“I want a hospital for the public - we all want to have a hospital that is ready and in place for any future emergencies, but it’s got to be done in the right way.”
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