Westmount residents have slammed what they see as an “outrageous”, “offensive” and “deliberate” attempt to sideline them over future hospital plans, and placed instead in a group which they believe has much less influence.
Both Tamara Vanmeggelen and Advocate Olaf Blakeley were denied the opportunity to take part in a 'Community Liaison Group' meeting of 50 stakeholders.
Ms. Vanmeggelen acts as spokesperson for Facebook group, ‘Guardians of Westmount Road and People's Park’ which currently has over 2,400 members, and has helped to lead initiatives such as the tying of ribbons around trees thought to be at risk in the area.
Advocate Blakeley, meanwhile, recently succeeded in getting the Parish of St. Helier to block any further construction work on a new hospital highway until Ministers provide more details about their plans. He is also representing a group of parishioners exploring legal action against the Government.
Pictured: The Community Liaison Group will apparently consult 50 stakeholders for their input on the new hospital.
Despite being a prominent voice on behalf of those living in the Westmount and People's Park area, Ms Vanmeggelen only became aware she had been left out of a newly set up 'community' group overseeing the new hospital designs and planning applications when someone she knew showed her an invitation they'd received.
Run by consultancy firm 'Soundings', the Community Liaison Group is described in an invitation sent out earlier this month as comprising “a number of local stakeholders, organisations and bodies to ensure we have representation covering varied interests, to help shape and guide elements of the hospital's design and to comment on any other 'enabling works'.”
The letter goes on to state that "relevant bodies, organisations and representative groups include: residents and residents' associations; local businesses, community groups, amenity societies and schools from St. Helier; and other representative interest groups from across Jersey, comprising ecology, heritage, arts and culture, public health, youth, the elderly, disability groups, among others."
Pictured: Westmount residents voted in a Parish meeting to halt any work on Westmount Road until detailed plans have been revealed.
However, when Ms Vanmeggelen contacted Soundings to see if she could attend the CLG meeting, which takes place next Tuesday (23 February), she was told that she would not be one of the 50 stakeholders invited, but might have an opportunity to attend the next meeting.
Instead, she was told she should attend Overdale Neighbourhood Forum meetings, a separate group which they said would have the same information delivered at the later date of 25 February.
However, looking at both invitations, Ms Vanmeggelen says there are distinct differences in the level of influence of each group.
While the CLG's views were described as being “central to" and indeed "incorporated” into the Our Hospital designs, those of the ONF would simply be “taken on board and considered.”
CLG members will also be granted direct access to design and delivery partner, RokFcc JV, and given planning application previews, while ONF members will not.
Detailing the difference in each group's power and influence, Ms Vanmeggelen created a chart comparing phrasing in the invite letters, which she has sent to both Soundings and multiple States Members, including Deputy Chief Minister Senator Lyndon Farnham, who is leading the Our Hospital project.
Pictured: The chart created by Tamara highlighting the groups' differing levels of influence.
Emphasising why residents need to be present at the CLG meeting, Tamara stated: “It is a crucial month for the CLG meeting with the planning application for demolition of the hospital buildings expected in March and potential developments on the road access route as we wait for confirmation the project team are seriously considering the overwhelming message to keep it simple.
“Westmount Residents have every right to be present and contribute to the CLG.”
Advocate Blakeley told Express he felt the decision to freeze them out of the CLG was a “deliberate one.”
“On 11 February, Senator Farnham issued a statement which he confirmed in a live radio broadcast had been written by his own hand. The statement announced the Hospital Project Team was ‘committed to fully engaging with Overdale residents, along with other interested parties'," he explained.
Pictured: Advocate Olaf Blakeley, who has been a key representative of Westmount residents, was also not invited to the CLG meeting next week.
“It must be clear to Senator Farnham and the project team it is reasonable a representative of the Overdale/Westmount residents should be permitted on the Community Liaison Group. The fact no such representative has been included in that group is not because of an oversight by the project team, it is deliberate.
“A written request to be included in the group was submitted and was refused. It is obvious this does not resemble anything remotely reflecting the promised act of ‘fully engaging'.
“In my opinion, it is yet another example of Senator Farnham saying one thing publicly to garner support from an audience but then - privately, shielded from public glare - doing the complete opposite.
“This type of conduct is the reason why faith, trust and confidence in Jersey's Government is at all-time low.”
Ms Vanmeggelen echoed the sentiment, adding: “The continued lack of engagement with the residents who are most affected by this project is disappointing and offensive.”
Responding to Express's request for comment this morning, a Government spokesperson said that decisions about who appears on what panel are not down to them.
“It is for members of the Neighbourhood Community Liaison Group to decide who they would like to represent them in a formal capacity at the CLG," they said. “This is not the decision of Government and steps have been taken to make sure nobody will be excluded from attending the meetings."
They went on to state that members of the ONF are "entitled to attend the Community Liaison Group to observe the proceedings and these will then be posted online, and in full, after the meeting for all islanders to see", but not that they were able to take part in discussions.
"It is essential that correct procedures are followed to ensure that the neighbours of Overdale are fairly represented in the CLG by the people they chose."
Senator Farnham added: "The important work Soundings are undertaking in Jersey is key to the success of delivering a new hospital for Jersey, and I will ensure that every voice is being heard as part of that process."
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