Friday 17 August 2012

Wanted--Your Help to Save Your Field

Last March the JEP published my first letter and I published my first Blog expressing my opposition to the application to build a new St Martin’s School on its playing field (327A). Since then the JEP has published a number of my letters and a number from other concerned people. I have also published further Blogs. However no letters have been published in support of the application. Also and very importantly apart from not being represented at my public meeting, no one from Education, Sport and Culture has attempted to defend its application. One may ask why, is it because it is difficult defending the indefensible?

As a result of the publicity the public have become better informed and are becoming aware of the knock on affect it will have not only for St Martin Parishioners but also for residents Island wide if consent is given to build on the field. The Parish will lose its football pitch with no provision made for a replacement. The pupils will lose their cricket pitch although it is proposed to ask the Parish if it will allow Education to install a cricket pitch on its Village Green. The existing school will be transferred to the Parish. To cater for staff parking consent will need to be sought to purchase part of Field 720A on the opposite side of the road, which is a good agricultural field.

These are important matters but none have been subjected to any public consultation yet there is an application before the Minister to build on the existing playing field.

The application is based on the presumption that there is no further capacity on the site to extend the facilities. That is simply untrue; the existing school is standing on a three vergee site which was provided by the parish of St Martin way back in 1897.

It is not disputed that the present school needs major refurbishment for which around £8million has been provided. Other parish schools, such as Trinity, St John and St Peter all built of similar size and around the same period have been re-developed on site and during that period pupils occupied port-a- cabins. Unlike many other schools, St Martin’s stands on a larger footprint and is blessed with having a 7 vergee (about 3 acres) playing field right next to it. The field was acquired in 1947 and has been a valued and focal point ever since.

It should be noted that prior to July last year the playing field was a protected site under the 2002 Island Plan Policy BE8 “Important Open Space.” The purpose of this policy is similar to the “Listed Site Policy” where there is a presumption against development. I say the field was protected because somehow the field was conveniently removed from the list during the Island Plan debate last year when the States (unwittingly) voted for the field to be included in the fields to be “safeguarded for educational use.” Thus by a stroke of the pen the field was thrown open to development and a foot in the door for an application to build on it. However the fact that the field was a "Protected Open Site" was with held from Members.

The playing field had been protected for a number of years and way before late 2009 when by pure co-incidence St Martin’s School is added to the “Sites of Local Interest” list thus by protecting that building it would add weight to the application to build on the field. All clever stuff one may say, however others may see it as a bit of sharp practice.

However there are vital questions which need answers such as if both the field and school were listed, what criteria was adopted to determine which would be the greater loss, a building deemed to be no longer fit for purpose which can be replaced by a modern fit for purpose school or a longstanding recreation field which when built on is lost for ever? Also who took the decision and was it ever recorded? Even more importantly why was the public not consulted and invited to comment and why cannot they be asked for an opinion before the application is considered?

At my public meeting two weeks ago a comment was made that the public should have been aware of what was going on; however when the facts are withheld or couched in such a way as to confuse the public one can hardly blame them for questioning the application once they have been informed of the facts.

On page 4 of Planning’s Supplementary Planning Guidance, Draft Development Brief, which was published as part of the consultation Brief in February this year, the following can be found, The Minister for Education, Sport and Culture made a representation to the 2011 Island Plan review explaining that the existing school was no longer fit for purpose and there was no space on site for expansion and requested that Field 327A be safeguarded for educational use.

The States approved the Island Plan and Field 327A was duly safeguarded in Policy SCO1. Although the Minister has made a compelling case for a new school, the Minister for Planning and Environment will require confirmation that the proposed school is in a sustainable location in respect of its catchment area and expects that confirmation to come out of the consultation process.”

It is apparent that the former Planning Minister must have been reading the Education Minister's application with “Nelson’s blind eye” and was a soft touch because on closer scrutiny the application is without substance and certainly runs foul of a number of Planning’s own policies.

Apart from being the less expensive option, there is ample room on the existing site to allow for redevelopment even if the current school is retained; those buildings which are not listed can easily be demolished. If space is deemed to be tight there is absolutely no reason why a two storey building cannot be built for year 5 and 6 pupils who would enjoy viewing the French coast from across Field 327 which is to the north of the school. Where is the vision, where is the will?

As can be seen above, although there is an application to build on the field which has apparently lost its protected status, it certainly does not mean that the current Minister, who is also Minister for the Environment and certainly not a soft touch will approve Education’s application. The case must be made and the jury is still out. He is mindful of the serious implications of building a new school on its playing field and has wisely extended the time for forwarding comments to 28th August.

Although the field is now listed for educational use it does not mean that it should be built on. It has been in educational use for over 60 years and has created opportunities for generations of children to learn about the importance sports participation and social skills. It has also been a valuable environmental and nature classroom. The field is irreplaceable and once lost is lost forever.

People have asked why I have bothered to continue fighting to save the field when many believe that consent is a done deal. I have continued because I do not believe it is a done deal and our environment is worth fighting for.

I have done my bit and I ask that if readers really want to save the field they too can do their bit by submitting their comments to the Planning and Building Services, South Hill, St Helier, JE24US or via THIS WEBSITE , This is the main Application website.

Please click to open and then click onto the Comment on Application section where a pro forma can be found. Your comments need not be lengthy but could help to save the field.

As a guide Readers may wish to submit something like " I am opposed to building on the St Martin's School playing field and any replacement should be constructed on its present site."


  1. I believe that the existing school at St Martin's can be redeveloped and there is no need to build on a perfectly good sports ground.

    Other school have been re-developed in this way and there is no excuse not to do it this way.

    Maureen Pinwill

  2. Hi Mo,
    Thanks for your comment, I think it is the common theme. Please make sure that you submit your comment to Planning.

  3. Comment now submitted in favour of NOT proceeding along the proposed lines and retaining the existing building and playing field and upgrading the school buildings as has happened on other larger sites.

    Anything less would be a travesty.

  4. Hi Gee Gee,

    Succinct, to the point and thank you.

  5. I'd sign a petition, but I'm putting my name and address up on their website for all the local internet trolls to see :(

    Maybe someone could set up a Facebook group "Save St.Martin's Playing Field" - with sufficient numbers joining that, maybe that would count for something?

  6. Thanks for the suggestions.

    Re the petitions, the matter has arisen before but one of the obstacles has been the time needed to organise one and have sufficient people to help.

    The other is the fear some people have of openly expressing their view. This prevented a number of people from attending my meeting because they might have been seen opposing the application. Fear is also inhibiting people from submitting their comments. I personally don't believe there is anything to fear and would ask those who want to make submissions either for or against the applicatio to do so.

    If one reads the Planning website there are already a number of comments published, with not one in favour of building on the field.

    I am not familiar with facebrook but would assist anyone who is minded to take up your suggestion

  7. Just been reading Jersey Today

    There is a great article there on School playing fields and mental health

    Time to lobby our health minister in this too?

  8. Thanks, it is an interesting article and very relevant The UK Government have come in a bit late about saving their fields. that is why the Diamond Jubilee Fields Challenge was set up hoping that 2012 fields will be protected for ever. We are supposed to have the Fields Challenge in Jersey, but we are still waiting for it to get going.

    The Health Minister getting involved?? No chance she will toe the party line and support the other Ministers. It was interesting to see her at my public meeting, but did not speak.

  9. bob you are doing such a fantastic job! well done,i cannot believe the children of St Martins were ever put in the position of losing such an important facility in the first place!! shame on the people involved. Youth development through sport is crucial and should never be underestimated.
    Darryl parker

  10. Hi Darryl,

    Thanks for your kind words, however it is the support for opposing the application to build on the field that really matters. It pleasing to see that many people are realising that they can help by submitting their concerns to Planning. The field is too valuable to be built on and collectivly we can save it.

  11. Great Olympics! Lots of debate in the UK over playing fields - what a bizarre suggestion for Jersey to get rid of a playing field with such limited space available!

  12. Yes it does seem ironic, but common sense might still have a part to play.

  13. dear mr hill
    your fath in common sense is so far off the mark with this c.o.m you my as well be on the moon

  14. Fortunately the decision is not down to the Council of Ministers but with Deputy Rob Duhamel who is one of the very few Ministers who is still his own man and capable of doing what he thinks right based on the evidence he has in front of him. Given the many flaws in the process and the strength of the opposition, I am hopeful that the Minister will make the right decision.

  15. I note that deputy Luce, will be creating a cricket pitch on the Village Green when the new school is built.

    It is unfortunate but it is not his Village Green, he appears to dismiss the fact that for health and safety reasons, during any cricket match the Village Green will have to be closed to non participants!

    This therefore begs the question, when is our Village Green not our Village Green? Answer when Deputy Luce say's it is his!

  16. What Deputy Luce wants and what he gets are two different things. I believe the parishioners will want a say as to what is permitted on the Village Green.

    If cricket is permitted then the footballers may well be knocking on the door as the Feasibility Study recommended that the Parish football pitch be relocated to the Village Green if the school is built on the playing field.

  17. After the fight that the Parishners had to stage some 8 years ago to buy the Green, through donation and a rise in our rates, why now would the Parishners vote to allow football on the Green? I believe both Dep Luce and the Constable will be shot down by another passionate vote by the Parish as they were on the Rectory.

    Deputy Duhamel should allow the will of the people to prevail and:
    1. Request that there be a Parish vote on the subject of the school build
    2. Request the file on the field that will determine if in fact the status of being protected has in fact been removed and the suspicious circumstances surround the subject.

  18. Thanks for your comments,

    I don't see a problem with a few people having a kick about with a couple of coats for goal posts on the Village Green or for any other informal knock about games, but I would not like to see a permanent football or cricket pitch. The land is supposed to be a Village Green not a recreation or sports field which is what the School Playing field has been since 1947 and should remain so.

    It is for Parishioners to organise a meeting which can be achieved by either asking the Connetable or Deputy to do so. Otherwise 4 Parishioners can sign a Requete requesting the Connetable to call a meeting.

    There is a difference between a Parish and Public meeting, the former is for Parishioners only and minutes are taken.

    As I do not live in St Martin's I could not call for a Parish meeting so that is why I organised the public meeting on 1st August which was well attended and achieved two things, the public became better informed and an extension was given for the public to forward their comments. It is evident that the public is now better informed with many now questioning the application and there have been well over 50 comments submitted. I hope you made a submission.

    Re the field status, I have raised the matter in my submission, however you could ask your parish representative to lodge a question for the next State's Meeting.

  19. The official record of the events of 28 September 1769 was erased from the Royal Court ledger. They don't teach that at St Martin's or any other school in Jersey.
    Now after over two centuries the official record in its scribbled out form can be viewed on the website but that is just the start of THIS YEAR's electoral reform year - SURELY?

    Back in 1769 Thomas Gruchy led a couple of hundred of the brave dissenters on a march from Trinity into St Helier to meet up with others from several Parishes who descended upon the Royal Court in protest. That event led to the creation of the basic States of Jersey separted from the corrupt Royal Court. That process of reform continues today...

    THIS YEAR must not pass by unnoticed. Friday 28 September must be put back into the record as JERSEY REFORM DAY - so what are you ALL proposing to do about it?

    On the electoral website, refer to Dun Michael (4) submission for the copy of the scribbled-out record and Dun Michael (3) for a full history of the events of 1769 and a copy of the original 27 articles of grievance presented to K George III that year.

    Jersey history as taught at St Martin's School is defective just as the version of "News" published in the JEP or via BBC/CTV/103 is thoroughly corruipted by government interference.

    The time has surely long come when people should re-claim their own version of history and re-apply the decent principles of such brave people as those who demonstrated on 28 September 1769.
    The public of Jersey have been sleeping for far too long and the Electoral Commission will fail in its job UNLESS the public message in support of REFORM is made loudly and clearly - and from all corners of the Island!

  20. Hi Tom,

    Your comments are not really relevant to the field other than your reference to the history lessons at the school. I am afraid that we did not learn much about local history but had to learn by heart all the important dates which revolved around great victories England achieved around the world.

    We did how ever learn about being open and honest which does not seem to be the case with those closely involved with the Planning application.

    For your info I have made a submission to the Electoral Commission and will be appearing before it on Monday 10th September at 1130am

  21. The interest that you take as a non-resident of St Martin in the school issue seems to be very much at the heart of the electoral reform that is now being looked at.

    If Parishioners of St Martin choose to allow a certain thing to happen within their own patch - who shall have the power to overthrow that decision?

    What should the scope of power be for Constables, Deputies and Senators, or any others, in the Jersey States or Parishes actually be?

    Methinks that the issues raised here are very far reaching and even more important than kicking a ball around a field I would suggest....


  22. I understand where you are coming from but those matters should be addressed by the Electoral Commission and its review, which as mentioned above I have made a submission. I will publish it as Blog after the 10th of September when I will also be able to comment on my appearance before the Commission that day.

    Building on a protected public field in any parish should be of interest to Residents Island wide and should not necessary be the preserve of the residents of the particular parish where the field is located. For example the Plemont and Town Park planning application were not just St Ouen or St Helier issues.

    If the individual Connetable and Deputy is not interested in what is going on in their parish, or in the St Martin’s field application they support the application, then in theory a parishioner should call on any one of the 10 Senators, but it still requires an individual to get the ball rolling.

    The problem with the field application is that those involved with the application have never held a public meeting to discuss it and presummed that the application would not be questioned. Whilst I am a non resident I lived and was educated in St Martin’s before leaving the Island and on return did represent the Parish in the States for 18 years so I am not actually an alien.

    Fortunately my intervention has been effective because the public are now better informed; the deadline for submissions was extended by a month which has resulted in dozens of Comments being submitted.

    It could be said that sometimes politics is too important to be left to politicians.

  23. Shall anybody be marching into St Helier from Trinity this year to remember the heroes of 28 September 1769?

    Feel sure that the school children of all the Parishes should be educated on this most important day in Jersey's democratic history - perhaps a special 18th century style cricket match might be re-enacted between the Charlots and Magots in the Royal Square?