A local hairdresser has hit out at the States for leaving her “dangling” over whether she’ll have to suddenly move out to make way for the new hospital, just weeks before she needs to sign a new lease.
Debbie Harrington of 1-2-1 Harrington Hairdressing says there isn’t a day where she doesn’t wake up thinking about the fate of the business she’s run in Kensington Place for 11 years.
“It’s constantly on my mind. Every client that comes in now says, ‘Any news about the hospital?’ I’m normally a ‘go with the flow’ person, but you can only take so much of it. This is enough.”
She is one of many businesses, including restaurants and hotels, in the “buzzing” St. Helier quarter expected to be vacated and demolished for the £466million Future Hospital.
Pictured: Debbie's salon may have to make way for the Future Hospital alongside other businesses in the area, if plans are approved.
But plans to revamp the current site are still yet to be approved around two years after they were first warned they might have to leave – and Debbie says the wait has left her feeling “stressed”, with the lack of communication from the States making things much worse.
“We were told we’d have to be out in September 2018. Then we were told in December. I said I couldn’t possibly move out in December, as it’s the busiest time of year and the restaurants obviously said the same thing. Then they said hopefully we can agree something in January, but never came back with an answer,” she told Express.
Like other businesses, she said she didn’t want to go at first, but then made peace with the idea. Now they just want to know.
Debbie is expected to sign a lease for next year imminently, but fears that she’ll could be told that she has to move out at any moment. “I’ve got my life on hold right now.”
Pictured: Other businesses, like Aroma's, will have to leave Kensington Place if the plans are passed.
Moving out isn’t something that can be done overnight – it will involve “massive” upheaval and significant costs. “First of all, I would have to find a place. Obviously nothing is stocked in Jersey so I’d have to get that. Most of the salon furniture comes from Italy via a supplier in England. Then of course you’ve got plumbers, electricians. I think I could probably pull it out the bag in six months – it’s a really long time.”
Changing premises would also mean saying goodbye to many clients – “I know my clients extremely well. Lots are local to the area, and there’s so many from the new Gaspé House” – and a struggle to find a place with equivalent parking provisions.
To make up for the loss in footfall, she’s been told that she is entitled to compensation. But so far discussions with the States on the topic have been limited in the extreme.
A “UK expert” met her and a few other businesses earlier this year, but she described it as lacking in detail as to how she’d be financially assisted with her plight. “It was an airy fairy meeting. They wanted my accounts, they wanted me to start looking for a new place. I said I wasn’t giving my accounts and I’m definitely not looking for something until I know what is happening.”
Pictured: The Independent Planning Inspector is yet to publish his report on whether to approve building a new hospital the current site.
If development on the current site is to go ahead, Debbie's ideal situation would be to be given a lump sum compensation so that she can get on with setting up.
Debbie added that she fears the delay in telling businesses when they’ll have to move could be a way of ensuring the compensation sum is less. That way, many businesses’ leases will have expired.
She said she was “happy” to move out now, but, with the Planning Inspector’s decision on the build due within weeks, it could be a “slap in the face” if the hospital ends up elsewhere.
“With each new year that comes round, you do want a fresh start. But we’re still in limbo.”
Pictured: Debbie has been operating her hairdressing salon business for 11 years, and stands to lose clients if she has to move.
She added that tenants living upstairs had expressed similar concerns – “they’re questioning whether to put up Christmas trees.”
“Chasing” States officials on the phone feels like the only option to get information given the lack of correspondence thus far, but Debbie says that she – like many other business owners – "[doesn't] have the time” to be constantly following up. Moreover, she added that the onus should be on the States to provide information.
“I think we should have been kept up to date every time there was a change of mind around that table they sit around… There should have been a blow-by-blow explanation of, ‘We’re putting this off because… We can’t do this because…’ Just keep us in the picture!”
This week she was presented with the opportunity to go to a ‘Neighbourhood Forum’ on the topic of the hospital, but said that this was too little, too late. In any case, she added that she felt it wasn’t a two-way dialogue, but an opportunity for officials to state their case.
Pictured: The hairdresser says that both herself and other businesses just want certainty about their future.
Setting the meeting time at 15:00 was also deemed to be ill-judged, with business owners usually at work at this hour. She was equally disappointed that the agenda for the meeting appeared to miss the elephant in the room of the impact on local businesses and the sense of community in the wider area.
“It would be a dead road. I feel sorry for the people that live here. How they’re going to live in a demolition site, I don’t know. There’ll be nothing left. All the restaurants will be gone, hotels gone. I imagine the people across the road will set up somewhere else. It’s such a shame as it’s always been such a lovely neighbourhood. Everyone’s so friendly, it’s buzzing.
“…But there’s nothing I can do. It’s just out of my control. It’s so frustrating.”
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