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Skate Park: South Hill Planning Concerns Grow

An artist's impression of what the new skate park would look like at South Hill Gardens.

Pre-planning application advice states that South Hill Gardens is not a good site for a skate park because of heritage and safety reasons - according to information in emails seen by Channel 103.

The government's Director of Development Control Peter Le Gresley says the Heritage perspective is that it would be difficult to place a park there without causing significant damage to a Grade 2 Listed Place.

The site is also within the La Collette Hazard Risk Area, with Mr Le Gresley raising the issue of children's safety and how that 'might not read well with the public.'

That is echoed by the Environment Minister Deputy John Young - who points to the archaeological importance, Napoleonic history and that the site was used as a WW2 prison camp. He's asked Mr Le Gresley to address these issues at the planning application stage.

In response to planning concerns at South Hill, Acting Director-General of Environment and Housing Andy Scate says there are also planning issues with Les Quennevais.

"The Les Quennevais site is next to an SSI (Site of Special Interest), it's quite an exposed countryside location so there are other issues here, such as landscape, wildlife, ecology and those sorts of matters.

"In any planning decision, there needs to be a balance over public benefit versus public harm. We feel that this facility sits well within the historic use of the area in terms of it is meant for open use and recreational use and we also feel that the key bits of geology that are referred to will be protected as a result.

"Yes it is a different use, it is an open use, but I think our historic places have to evolve in time, they have to be used by the community, and if anything this can become more of a celebration of this site. At the moment, it feels a little bit sorry and forgotten."

Infrastructure Department engineer Ollie Brewster, who is a long-standing member of the skatepark community and skate park project manager, said the geological SSI is a raised beach of prehistoric age up on the cliff, which the proposed development would have no impact on.

"In fact, the skatepark makes use of what was the old quarry. You actually find that the natural bedrock is some two to three metres below the existing ground level and the soils above that are all man-made, they're artificial soils, it was used as a municipal waste tip.

"The skate park proposal would largely be a development of this municipal tip area.

"We have lodged a pre-application advice request with the planning department and consulted with them and they have by no means dismissed the proposal to locate a skate park here. They identified the things that we've discussed and they will need to be addressed and managed through the development."

The Les Quennevais Sports Centre is graded as a moderate risk of having planning permission refused, while South Hill Gardens is graded as a moderate to high risk of having planning permission refused.

In the feasibility report released along with the results of the survey, it sets out the benefits of South Hill as:

  • Better satisfying the original objectives of providing modern, accessible and open facilities that are an environment for users where they feel safe and supported within and enable progression to a high level.
  • Providing more of an equal opportunity for children and young people across a broader range of household income
  • Being strategically located closer to the most densely populated areas of the island and would therefore experience significantly greater usage
  • Satisfying the preference of the children and young people originally consulted
  • Providing satellite facilities around the island to better correlate with population distribution.
  • Offering the opportunity to reinvigorate a forgotten and neglected area of St Helier
  • Giving an opportunity to create a leisure corridor from Snow Hill to Havre des Pas through the skatepark and redevelopment of Fort Regent
  • There is an ongoing social housing development that will increase population density in the area
  • There is a private residential development planned for South Hill Offices that would further increase population density in the area
  • There are plans to redevelop the existing playground next to the South Hill Offices as part of the private residential development and this could be linked to the skatepark

If the main facility is built at South Hill Gardens, four options have been suggested for smaller satellite skate parks.

They are Les Quennevais, Le Rocquier Playing Fields, St Ouen's Parish Hall and the St John's Recreation Centre.

"There is an opportunity at the Les Quennevais Sports Centre to utilise some under-used, mixed-use games areas that are much closer to the sports centre building that have existing floodlighting that a satellite facility could be established within those that would take the form perhaps of the modular ramps, similiar to the New North Quay facility." - Ollie Brewster, Project Manager.

Floodlighting was one of the concerns raised with the Les Quennevais main park proposal, along with co-ordinating it with long-term redevelopment plans for the sports centre and how far it would be from the bulk of the population, with fears it would mean fewer people using it and therefore reducing the overall benefit.

However Senator Steve Pallett, who will ask States members back Les Quennevais as the main site, argues that it is served by the island's most frequent bus route (the No.15), along with cycling and road links.

An artist's impression of what the new skate park would look like at the Les Quennevais Sports Centre.

The Economic Development Minister Senator Lyndon Farnham will propose to States members next week that South Hill Gardens be selected.

60% of respondents to a government survey preferred South Hill and 40% picked the Les Quennevais Sports Centre.

The skate park survey was promoted across all Jersey schools and Mr Brewster says they had a large response from these schools, proving along with other responses that they'd reached out to the right people.

The Les Quennevais Sports Centre has been scored nine points lower in an update Site Suitability Report, putting it level with South Hill Gardens.

When asked why that is by Channel 103, Mr Brewster said:

"When we did the original site assessment, there were four areas that were being considered at the time and Les Quennevais was scored on the area that gave it the most favourable score.

"Subsequent to that assessment, the area furthest away from the sports centre in the very far north-west corner of the site was chosen.

"Using exactly the same criteria, that means that it's scores in some areas is lower because it's further away from some of the facilities, amenities and public transport links that it was cored favourably for in the original assessment."

The skate park debate in the States Assembly is scheduled for 9 February.

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