Friday, 29 June 2012

Short term gain---Long term pain

Regular readers will know that I have published a few Blogs regarding the proposal to build a new school on the St Martin's School field.

The JEP has recently informed its readers that the Environment Minister has considered the comments from the consultation exercise and has now made a Ministerial decision which will provide planning guidance for building on the school field.

Such a decision defies logic and just goes to show how the consultation process was a waste of the time, with the questions loaded in such a way to enable the Ministers to receive the answers they were seeking. Most importantly the option of redevelopment was omitted.

As a result of the report I submitted another letter to the JEP which it published in yesterday's edition and is reproduced below.

As a lead into the letter below, I wish to make it clear that I do not have a problem with demolishing, if necessary, all of the existing School buildings. Whilst the shell of the 1900 building remains, internally there is very little of the infrastructure remaining from my school days. Almost all of the playground areas have been built on and as if as suggested that the School no longer fits the purpose than it should be replaced. By being replaced on the existing site it will remain in what is deemed to be the heart of the perceived Village. As mentioned previously it is the least expensive and will save the School field which will remain intact for future generations.

Whilst much has been made of the need to provide education for St Martin's pupils one very relevant fact to come from the consultation process is that at present as many as 48% of the current pupils reside outside the catchment area.

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My letter is as follows,
Dear Sir,
I am sure that your readers will have welcomed the report in the Wednesday 20th June edition of the JEP which gives an update on the unwarranted and illogical proposal to build a new school on the existing school field at St Martin.
                                                                                               
The report states that an unknown source has said that there is strong support for a new primary and nursery school to be built on the existing sports field. However as the questionnaire was drafted in such a way that building on the school filed was the best of the bad options and the redeveloping option was omitted, the result of the so called consultation is hardly surprising We were also informed that the Environment Minister had made a Ministerial decision to provide planning guidance to build on the sports field

So much for public consultation and the protection of the environment when it’s own Minister can permit building on a historic and Greenfield site when to redevelop the existing school is not only the most environmentally friendly but will save taxpayers  well over £1million.

There is also a quote from the Planning and Environment Chief Officer who states that “the 2011 Island Plan safeguards the site for educational use. The Principle of the site being used has already been agreed.” The Island Plan contains some 500 pages and if one searches carefully one will find that on page 275 which relates to educational facilities it records that “the redevelopment of public or private educational sites and facilities for alternative uses will not be permitted except in exceptional circumstances and only when it can be demonstrated that the premises are surplus to public and private educational requirements and the wider community need.”

Among the sites to be “protected or safeguarded” is Field 327A, St Martin, which is the existing sports field. It provides an area for sport and recreation for the school; it has been used for decades by the parish football team and the wider community including the School’s PTA who again will shortly be holding another car boot sale on it.

It is also reported that the Parish Connetable supports the proposal to build on the school field. That is not correct because although he forwarded a lengthy and helpful submission he did not express a view either way, but was of the view that decisions on the new school should not be delayed merely to await a Parish Village Plan. 

I took part in the Island Plan debate but the issue of the school field was never discussed but I believe that the intention of including the school field in the policy was to ensure that it was protected from ANY development. To now suggest that the intention was to build a school on it is totally dishonest. Where are the exceptional circumstances?
The States is often accused of failing to exercise joined up thinking but the way it has approached the decision to build on the field is a classic example of its failure.

This is Jubilee, Olympic and European football competition year. In addition Jersey is due to host the Island Games in 2015 but we cannot support our sports people to travel to Bermuda for the next Island Games.

To celebrate the Jubilee there is a project called the Diamond Jubilee Field Challenge under the patronage of her Majesty and headed by Prince William. The purpose of the Challenge is to safeguard sports fields from development. It also allows for the public to nominate and then vote for sports fields which should be protected. Jersey is participating with a committee consisting of the Council of Ministers and headed by the Bailiff. The Environment and Education Ministers know, because I have written to them, that I have nominated the St Martin’s Field, yet both are ignoring the democratic process.

The Education Minister who is also our Minister for Sport has adopted a Trappist Monk approach to the financial difficulties encountered by our sports people attending the Bermuda Island Games. The Parish Football Club still waits evidence of his promise of finding an alterative pitch. However if he re-developed the school not only will the field be saved for the cricketers and footballers but there will be a saving of over £1millon. That money could be used to finance the transport to Bermuda and for updating our infrastructure for when we host the 2015 Island Games. The field would also be retained for future generations.

It would seem that the public has a win, win opportunity so why can’t that opportunity be grasped by our Ministers?

As one can above the decision to build on the field is illogical and ill planned. When the new school is finally built the existing one will be handed over to the Parish which I am sure will be as much welcomed as receiving a hole in the head as it is already struggling in knowing what to do with its ailing Rectory.

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It would seem that the supporters for building on the field are more interested in a policy of short term gain with long term pain and all logic is thrown out of the window. 

12 comments:

  1. It would be good to hear your always intelligent commentary on the explosive Guardian series. A lot has been published quickly, and the blogs are trying to keep pace. Specifically, do you expect any change at the BBC Jersey now that media complicity is in the news again? You were especially well informed and well spoken in that Scrutiny Panel effort.

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  2. The Guardian Report although on the late side is welcomed. The Haut du la Garenne and the Power suspension issues remain as a scar on the Island's face and is harmful to our image. The so called accredited media could have done a lot more to expose the truth rather than report on the trivia such as the cost of restaurant meals. I do not know how the BBC will respond in the future but it did allow for some pretty good interviews to be broadcast today. I don't know if the BBC invited any Ministers to comment on the Gaurdian report, but if they did not it was a lost opportunity. I believe that the Blogs are becoming a powerful, effective and creditable means of communication and it is thanks to the Bloggers and individual States Members that newspapers of the stature of the Gaurdian have taken the trouble to report on the continued cover ups.

    The introduction of Andrew Williamson to stall the Committee of Inquiry is further evidence that those who seek to cover up the truth are still alive and kicking in the Council of Ministers.

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  3. Bob.

    BBC Jersey has had hold of Graham Power's submission to Wiltshire since September 22nd 2011 and hasn't reported a single word of it. They reported extensively on the prosecution case against him so any right minded person would believe they have an obligation to add some balance. Deputy Trevor Pitman and Former Senator Stuart Syvret have both said Mr. Power's submission to Wiltshire could be "redacted in to hours with a bottle of Typex."

    Why do you think BBC Jersey keep this vital document a secret? What does it say about the BBC as an independent and impartial "news" outlet when they are only willing to publish one side of a case?

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  4. Well said, Sir.

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  5. Dear Voice,

    I compliment you on the Blogs you have produced on the Graham Power suspension; there is still much mileage in the matter particularly now that the Guardian has taken an interest. However my Blog above is about the Sports field and I do not want to divert attention away from it.

    What I will say is that there are occasions when the BBC does show a bias and that is evident with the St Martin's field issue. Last week it devoted a day on St Martin's and several people were interviewed including the Parish Deputy who was given licence to expand on the virtues of the proposed new school, stating that to build on the field was the less expensive option. That is clearly untrue yet he was not challenged on the matter. To give a balance to the interview some one should have been interviewed giving an opposing view. Unfortunately that was not the case. Therefore I can understand your frustration.

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  6. If the destruction of the sports field goes ahead it will be fine example of the worst aspects of out government. Very very sad, and another illustration of us getting the government we deserve.

    The field should be protected. The question of redeveloping the school should be considered as if the present site is the only option, as if there wasn't even a sports field next door at all.

    We should place more protection on valuable Open Space than a building that has only been there for a hundred years or two. Demolish and rebuild if there really is a proven need that isn't just over-specified wishful thinking.

    Let them consider a year of working from portacabins on the village green opposite, and see if that focusses their minds on just how much they 'need' a change from a school that seems to work perfectly well from what I've seen (I have a child there at present).

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    1. I too have a child there and consider this sad and unnecessary. Bob do you have the consultation results document and original questionnaire to download? I can then e mail it around to my contacts at school and we can see if there are enough to oppose.

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    2. Thank you for your common sense comments. Unfortunately common sense and logic does not apply to those making the decisions and their supporters. There is also the issue of egg on face if the proposals were overturned.

      I note that you are a parent, do you know what the views are of the other parents because there were only a total of 37 responses received by Planning. We know that some came from the pupils, one of whom was really excited at the prospect of the new school having a lift. Perhaps you should approach other parents as it need not be too late to get the Minister to change his mind if there was sufficient opposition to the proposal.

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  8. I have had a technical problem whilst trying to create a hyerlink to the relevant States Website and still can't do a hyperlink. Please cut and paste the following link onto your browser http://www.gov.je/Government/Consultations/Pages/PlanningFrameworkStMartinSchool.aspx

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    1. Bob.

      Here is the hyperlink to the page you WANT

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  9. Thank you Voice for the Link above.

    Should any reader wish to log into the Planning Consultation Process re St Martin's please could they click on to WANT on the Comment above. It is well worth reading.

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