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FOCUS: Battle lines drawn in hospital highway fight

FOCUS: Battle lines drawn in hospital highway fight

Monday 01 February 2021

FOCUS: Battle lines drawn in hospital highway fight


As the States Assembly begins its debate on the preferred access route to the future hospital, opinions remain heavily divided over the plans.

States Members are being asked to support the Council of Ministers' plans to use Westmount Road as the main access to the hospital, which would involve keeping it as a two-way road with areas for cycling and walking. Here's what each group thinks...

What does Scrutiny say?

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Pictured: The Future Hospital Review Panel concluded that the process leading to the selection of Westmount Road as preferred access lacked in detail.

The Future Hospital Review Panel recently examined the Council of Ministers’ plan, publishing its conclusions a week earlier than planned after the debate was brought forward by eight days.

They concluded the process leading to the selection of Westmount Road as preferred access lacked in detail - a situation which they said echoed the selection process for the hospital site. The latter was described as “procedurally flawed” as well as “subjective rather than objective."

The Panel also pointed out the lack of “an appropriately detailed design of the proposed roadworks”, a situation they are attempting to resolve by way of an amendment, or of any indication of how much green space will be lost. 

They also indicated concerns about the “extensive” list of 71 options and how they had been considered as well as the fact that the ‘do nothing’ option was not considered “strongly enough” - something they have recommended the Council of Ministers do. 

The announced budget of around £15 million has also raised questions, given that it does not seem to include the cost of the design work and is therefore not fixed to a specific plan or proposal.

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Pictured: The Panel is not convinced the plans will encourage cycling or walking.

In addition, the Panel says the proposals do not include a Travel Plan for the new hospital and that there is likely to be only “limited success” in realising sufficient sustainable travel journeys to and from the hospital to support the Carbon Neutral Strategy.

Developing such a plan could end up driving up the cost of the future hospital. 

“This review identifies a continuing pattern of behaviour highlighted in our report which looked at the site selection process; once again, time has been put ahead of good governance and sound decision making,” Senator Kristina Moore, the Panel’s Chair, said.

“We understand the need to deliver a hospital for Jersey, but we are very concerned that a commitment to spend almost £40m of public money is being forced upon States Members without revealing the impact that the access road will have upon the local residents, the landscape, environment, traffic or sustainable transport plans.”

 

What do technical experts say?

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Pictured: Experts appointed by the Scrutiny panel criticised the process followed to select the best access route.

The Future Hospital Review Panel hired K2 and Clarkebond as advisers to provide expert technical assistance as part of their review. 

In their report, K2 pointed out that the report attached to Minister’s proposal does not explain or evidence how Westmount Road “maximises sustainable modes of travel to and from the new hospital."

In addition, they said it does not address how this option will seek to minimise the impact on homes, leisure facilities and the surrounding environment. 

While the experts said they had found no reason why Westmount Road should not be considered the most appropriate route, they said there is no evidence to support this decision.

“The impacts and effects of selecting this route have not been produced or compared with other shortlisted options,” they noted.

Meanwhile, engineering consultants Clarkebond voiced concerns that the proposals had been “rushed through” and lacked “sufficient information, analysis and rigour." 

“It would appear that the overriding criteria for all major decisions in connection with the proposed new hospital is speed,” they said, adding that this approach, whilst legitimate, brings “significant risks” including limited time for review, debate and questioning as well as the need to make changes as new information emerges and early decisions are challenged.

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Pictured: The experts also voiced concerns about the time allowed for the project.

They also pointed out that, given the previous planning application had taken nine months to decide, allowing only six months for the current programme was risky, especially since a third party appeal is still possible.

Their report also highlighted that the Infrastructure, Housing and Environment (IHE) Department had concerns over the criteria used during the selection process, with the emphasis being put on project delivery timescales and how Sustainable Transport was tackled. 

The IHE’s Transport Planner said he would have done the assessment differently, but considered it relatively robust.

The consultants suggested a separate second access should be identified as Westmount Road could still become blocked, even as a two-way access. 


What do Friends of Our New Hospital say? 

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Pictured: Under the plans, the Bowling Club would be demolished. 

The Friends of Our New Hospital campaign group is also calling for more information on the access road. 

Peter Funk, one of the members, said that since deciding to start afresh with the future hospital site, the Government has given no detail about the hospital’s facilities, and then adopted the same stance with regards to their plans at Westmount Road.

“They selected Overdale, which is a good site for a hospital no doubt about that, the difficulty they have run into is that they say they need access to the hospital,” Mr Funk said. 

“So, they introduced p 167. and they said, ‘We want to spend £38.7 million pounds, building a new road and acquiring property.' The logical question then was what new road? Where's it going to go? What's it going to look like? Which properties are you planning on acquiring? And how are you going to go about that? In other words, detail. 

“Our view was, well, you may have pulled the wool over everybody's eyes on the hospital, but what about this road? Why do you need it? Where is it going to go? And how much is it going to cost? What specifically is it going to look like?"

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Pictured: Friends of Our New Hospital have consulted experts to draw the map above.

“And the Council of Ministers turned around and said, in the session on the 19th of January of the States, ‘You really don't need to know this, trust us’. They then went before the ‘Our Hospital’ Scrutiny committee on 21 January, and the panel said, ‘Give us details’. 

“[They replied], ‘You don't need to know. In other words, let us spend another £38 million pounds, whether it's within the original budget or not, is another question, and by the way, you don't need to know.'

“Our protest has been, we have a perfectly functional road here at the moment, it serves the hospital. ambulances come up and down every day, buses come up and down every day, tell us why you have to take this huge chunk out of People's Park, remove all the parking down on Pierson Road and create this monster... highway to Overdale?”

Mr Funk urged States Members to ask fundamental questions, adding that he was not convinced this would delay the process, contrary to what Senator Lyndon Farnham has publicly said.  

“Have they given us a timetable? Have they said this is exactly what we're going to build, this is how we're going to build it, and this is the time it's going to take? 

“All they've said is, 'We want to put a spade in the ground by 2022.' The reason they want to put a spade in the ground by 2022, and have all this wrapped up, is they want to be able to say to the electorate, ‘We delivered the hospital.' That's the only reason.

“It is time for the States to stop being a nodding donkey, throwing confetti around like there was a large wedding,”  

 

What do Westmount residents say?

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Pictured: The Guardians of Westmount Road and People’s Park tied up ribbons to the trees deemed at risk in the area over the weekend.

The Guardians of Westmount Road and People’s Park have expressed concerns about the impact the works will have on nearby trees as well as People’s Park.

On Friday, they tied red ribbons around the trees deemed to be at risk in the area.

Tamara Vanmeggelen, who lives at the top of the hill and is part of the group, said the initiative aimed to give people "a visual of the level of the destruction."

While the Government refuses to produce a diagram of what the road will look like, the Group said it believes more than 50 trees will be disappearing.

“I live at the top of Westmount Hill and I just feel passionate about saving the park and green space in town because it’s a very precious commodity and when this park is gone, it’s gone and if we just keep encroaching on it and making it smaller and smaller and have this big road that they are planning to envelop the park, it will really diminish its value to everybody," Mrs Vanmeggelen said.

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Pictured: Residents are concerned People's Park will be damaged beyond recognition as a result of the roadworks.

"The States Members are debating proposition P167 that has been expedited to Monday, so we are just trying to get awareness out so that people contact States Members at this time when we can’t protest in person because it’s not safe to do so, to just have a visual reminder, as well as our Facebook outreach, to have people speak out and make sure the States Members know that we do care about the green space in town."

"With 12 meters of Westmount Road, you are carving out most of that hill. It’s going to really change the entire townscape. If you think about the town it’s bordered on the east by a hill and on the west by a hill and they are materially changing what that looks like."

 

What do historians say?

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Pictured: Nicolette Westwood, the new president of the Société, said the organisation was very concerned about the plans being approved.

The 148-year-old Société Jersiaise joined the debate over the weekend, putting together a report which has been presented to States Members to further explain their concerns ahead of today’s crucial debate on whether to approve Westmount as the key future hospital access route.

They warned that the Government’s preferred access route to Overdale could cause “significant damage to the form, character and appearance of Westmount”, adding that this could “have an adverse effect on the special interest of People’s Park, as this familiar promontory forms a powerful and symbolic backdrop to the public open space which has been given statutory protection because of its intrinsic historic and cultural value.”

The Westmount area includes the former Gallows Hill – the site of Jersey’s first recorded public hanging in 1555 – and is the point where Major Peirson gathered his troops before heading into battle in 1781. 

“Société Jersiaise is not a campaigning body but among its aims are the dissemination of knowledge about the Island’s history, culture and natural history, and also an active interest in the conservation of the Island’s environment, both natural and man-made,” new President Nicolette Westwood said. 

“We are very concerned that a decision to approve the principle of this proposed access might be made in the absence of a proper understanding of the cultural significance of Westmount as well as its scenic importance as one of the most important and prominent landmarks in the island.” 


What is Senator Farnham saying?

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Pictured: Senator Farnham said the intention was "not to lose a single tree”.

In a media briefing hastily arranged on Friday, the politician leading the Our Hospital project, Deputy Chief Minister Senator Lyndon Farnham, sought to address what he described as “misinformation” about the plans.

“Regrettably, but I suppose understandably, there has been some misinformation spread, which seems to have caught on in relation to the desecration of great swathes of People’s Park which is simply not correct,” he said.

“It has been frustrating that there has been this rumour out that there will be severe damage to the park,” he added. “I think residents sometimes, I think we could all so sometimes look at things but not see what's being proposed and sometimes listen to things but not actually hear what's being proposed. And I know it's difficult when one is opposed to something to actually see the benefit from it. 

“But I take that that's actually understandable and we have to continue to work hard to reassure people that this is going to be a good scheme and improvement and what's already there, so we make it a lot safer.”

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Pictured: Under the plans, an extra lane would be added on Peirson Road. 

Senator Farnham also denied the works would cost £38 million or even £40 million but instead £15 million. 

Project Director Richard Bannister said the £38 million stated in the hospital budget included civil engineering investment in the site, such drainage and retaining walls. 

He pledged that the trees along the top and bottom of the park would remain “untouched” and that any trees that did have to go would be replaced. However, he maintained that the team would try to avoid this “at all costs.”

He said that there would, in fact, be an “opportunity to increase the recreational space on the other side of the road and actually grow the park", suggesting that archways could be created underneath the Bowling Club section of road for this purpose.

Senator Farnham also noted that some pétanque pitches could have to move, while Our Hospital Project Director said the children’s play area was also at risk.

It was confirmed, however, that three homes would definitely have to make way for the highway. Parking to the south of People’s Park - apart from disabled bays - will also be removed to create public access. 

Ultimately, Senator Farnham said details of exactly what else would have to go would emerge at the planning application stage, which would follow a design process he described as “open and engaging.”

Providing those details sooner and waiting to secure States Assembly approval in advance of properly starting work on the site could delay the timeline the hospital project team are working to by up to 15 months, he warned, and create “uncertainty” that would threaten contracts and possibly push up costs by as much as 30%. 

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Posted by IanSmith97 on
JUST GET IT BUILT! At the moment the road is 2 way and lined as such. I know it is a bendy road but so will be the new planned one. Loads of ‘experts’ pontificating and loads of politicians making mischief. JUST GET IT BUILT!
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