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Primary Access Route To New Hospital Approved

The States Assembly has approved Westmount Road as the primary access route to the new hospital at Overdale, despite an attempt to hold off until detailed drawings of the route are provided.

The debate was originally scheduled for 9 February, but a requisitioned sitting was arranged for today after the amendment from the Future Hospital Review Panel.

This access route is due to see a two-way and widened Westmount Road to include areas for active modes of travel, such as walking and cycling.

71 options were considered, and the Political Oversight Group says this one will have the most minimal impact overall.

It means three homes must be demolished and the Jersey Bowling Club will have to move. There may also be an impact on the children's playground.

Senator Lyndon Farnham insisted last week that 'the intention is not to lose a single tree' after campaigners tied red ribbons around those they feared would be cut down under this road access scheme.

Advocate Olaf Blakeley announced that he is serving legal papers to demand a St Helier Parish Assembly that could block work on Westmount Road.

He released a video disputing the claim about the disruption to the area.

Hospital Project Director Richard Bannister also said last week that the aim is to keep the majority of trees, but while he can't guarantee that all will be, any trees that are lost will be re-provided to another location.

Senator Farnham said during the debate that while a small number of trees may be impacted, it isn't as many as campaigners claimed.

Scrutiny wanted more consideration to be given to doing nothing to Westmount Road instead, to stop any possible impact to the surrounding area.

In her speech - the chair of the Future Hospital Review Panel, Senator Kristina Moore, said she was disappointed that the government had criticised Scrutiny - and insisted they were not trying to cause additional delay.

"We are simply trying to ensure that this assembly and the public are better informed and heard with regard to this important project.

"Everybody agrees that we need to improve the quality of our hospital service and its environment.

"However it's also of vital importance that we as an island, and all who will use that hospital, are content that the process has been achieved through the best possible circumstances."

Overdale was approved as the preferred site in November 2020, but that came with the need for the Council of Ministers to present a report on:

'Alternative access strategies designed to maximise sustainable modes of travel to and from the new hospital, and to minimise the impact on homes, leisure facilities and the surrounding environment of the access interventions currently proposed'

At the start of the sitting, Senator Farnham called on States members 'not to once again let the people of Jersey down'.

"One of the reasons we recommended Overdale was to protect the People's Park.

"Do members really think we would therefore sit back and allow the desecration of the park or any of the surrounding area? Of course, we would not.

"Under no circumstances would I, or I'm sure any other member of the assembly or those involved in the planning stages or planning approval, would allow the destruction of Westmount, trees, or People's Park as has been claimed by some. That simply would not happen.

"Progress of the new hospital, or the lack of it, was a key election issue and many of us here today promised the electorate that it would be a priority for this assembly and I'm sure none of us want to, once again, let the people of Jersey down by failing to deliver on this project."

The Chief Minister warned that further delays could add 30% or more to the costs, 'which could kill the project', while the Health Minister said a further delay would be catastrophic.

"Delay means additional expense to the taxpayer, but even more worryingly for me it means the risk of poorer health outcomes in deteriorating buildings and a dispirited staff who are required to work in substandard conditions without hope that things will improve, because their States members won't move along with the path that we have identified." - Deputy Richard Renouf

Despite some States members agreeing with Scrutiny that more information was required, the amendment was defeated by 26 votes to 21, after Senator Farnham warned that this delay could mean the new hospital not being operational until 2027 or 2028.

The current timetable is to have it ready to use in 2026.

That's despite Senator Moore's plea to 'show us a drawing' - warning that a lack of engagement was damaging public confidence, rather than improving it.

The main proposition to approve the Westmount Round access was accepted by 34 votes to 11.

Another amendment to ask Ministers to minimise any reduction in green space and tree planting, re-locate and replace any impacted community facilities, and replace any parking that is lost, was accepted.

Attention will now turn to working on detailed design work for the road and hospital, with an outline business case to come before States members by the summer of 2021.

Environment Minister Deputy John Young withdrew from the entire debate because he has the power to approve or decline a planning application when one is submitted.

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