As the only person who had taken the trouble to arrange a meeting it was amusing to see how those who should have done so not only took the trouble of attending but did so with prepared lengthy speeches. One wonders why they did not organise their own meeting rather attempt to hi-jack mine.
The whole purpose of the three week period between advertising a planning application and receiving comments is to allow for a consultation process and how better than to call upon those supporting the application to account for it. In some countries it is part of the democratic process but in
Jersey it is meddling with it.
However the meeting provided an opportunity to shoot the messenger with politicians taking every opportunity to ridicule any one who did not actually live in the Parish. The fact that the school is being financed by the
Island’s taxpayers and 48% of its pupils live outside the catchment seemed to be ignored.
It was certainly sad to hear elected Members questioning the motives of those seeking a re-think because they no longer live in
St Martin’s. The current Football Club President although now living in Trinity has devoted 54 years to the Parish football team. He has been an inspiration to thousands of parishioners and without his dedication the parish club would have folded many years ago. The Club pays a fee to the Education Department for the hire of the ground. The goal posts are left in position and there is seldom a day when one does not see people of all ages playing on the pitch. The Club also funds the Trinity Shield competition which is for Jersey born residents living in the Parish. The Parish football is part and parcel of the Parish and to denigrate its President is unworthy.
It was also a case for not letting the truth get in the way of defending an entrenched position. No one is disputing the fact that the present school needs urgent attention but it was stretching it a bit when Senator
Francis Le Gresley reported that when it rains it pours into the school and soaks the school books. One wonders why he has not reported the matter to the Education Minister. If the school is such a poor state one wonders why some Parishioners are so keen to take it over.
We also had a statement from Senator Routier who wrongly reported that the Field Challenge Trust would not consider any playing field which was controversial. I don’t know how he could come up with that red herring. The whole purpose of the Field Challenge is to protect playing fields from development. Only the owner can sign the deed that gives protection. Therefore if the authority or in Jersey’s case the Parish or States is opposed to the public’s support for the retention of the playing field the application will be controversial. However it is the public which will have the vote.
By delaying the opportunity for public participation in the Field Challenge the States, by stealth is denying the public the opportunity to nominate the
St Martin’s playing field. The fact that I did so on May 1st seems to have been ignored.
It was again alleged that during the States debate of the Island Plan last year, the States Members, myself included, voted to allow the school field to be built on. That is not so, what was voted for was that the field would be safeguarded for educational use. The field has been in educational use for over 65 years and if a sensible approach was taken it could be retained for another 65 years and more.
Unfortunately due to PTT (Politicians Talking Time) which at times was intimidating I felt that many of the public became restrained from commenting. However one very valid point was made by a former pupil who asked what seemed to be the most sensible question of the evening, which was, “If the present site is deemed to be too small why the area required can’t encroach into the playing field which would achieve the best of both worlds. There would be a new building on the old site whereby the pupils and the Parish would retain their cricket and football pitches”
“Elementary my dear Watson” perhaps it is a pun on the former elementary school but it is an appropriate response to a sensible question.
There were two positive matters that arose from the meeting; one is that the public are now better informed and certainly if a vote had been taken to request the Ministers to have a re-think, the vote would have been won. The other was recognition that the public requires more time to comment. To this end the Planning Minister has extended the time for consultation and comment until 28th August.
Hopefully the Ministers will reconsider their decision. However it is for the public, if they wish to retain the field, to take the trouble to submit their comments to the Planning Department before the end of this month.