Friday 27 July 2012

Save our Field----Is anyone listening???

Regular readers will have noted that I have devoted a few Blogs to the illogical decision to build a new St Martin’s school on its playing field rather than redeveloping or rebuilding on the existing site.

Since starting my Blog some months ago not only have I noticed an increased readership but the Blog has attracted many readers from around the world, and I thank you all. Although this Blog is again devoted to the St Martin’s field, building on open land is a world wide issue. Whilst Jersey has benefitted from the occasional land fill on our coast line, we are not producing any more land but our population is ever increasing therefore I fully concur with the comments highlighted in italics below when the States approved its Island Plan last year. In its Introduction it stated

1.1 For a small Island, land is a precious and finite resource of fundamental importance and it is essential that it is used wisely. The importance of land use planning cannot be overstated. It affects the quality of life of everyone living in Jersey by balancing the competing demands for land with the need to protect the environment.

1.2 The principal document for the planning and use of land in Jersey is the Island Plan. It sits at the heart of the ‘plan-led system’ and is crucial to the success of the economy, the quality of the environment and the welfare of the community.

The above Introduction is a powerful statement and could apply to anywhere in the world but even more so in small Islands where land and open space is so precious. One may ask how is it that responsible people can opt to build on an open field when there is another option. How can so many people fall at the first hurdle? How can the public allow such a decision to go unchallenged?

This year is Olympic year and the flame’s 8000 mile journey to London has passed through many communities and on the 58th day it came to Jersey. That day was enjoyed by thousands of Islanders and there were many fine speeches extolling the virtue of sport to the community, and rightly so as it creates the opportunity for people of all ages and abilities to participate or spectate.

This is also Diamond Jubilee year and it is doubtful whether there will ever be another occasion when the UK will celebrate a Diamond Jubilee and host the Olympic Games in the same year. At the heart of the Jubilee celebrations is the desire to protect and preserve 2012 playing fields throughout the UK from development. Jersey is a participant and a committee has been formed which is now within the Chief Minister’s remit.

Jersey has organised a number of events to celebrate the Jubilee and only last week Prince Charles and Camilla visited Jersey and both were warmly welcomed and again we heard many fine speeches extolling the virtue of working together and celebrating her Majesty’s wonderful 60 year reign. However not a word was spoken about the Field Challenge, why when so many other communities have not only chosen their field but some have received a royal seal of approval by being officially opened by a member of the Royal family.

The Planning Minister who is responsible for implementing the Island Plan, yes the same one whose Introduction is in italics above, has now approved a planning brief which will permit building on the Field. However as well as being the Planning Minister, he is also Minister of the Environment so how does that decision conform to the Introduction above?

The Education Minister is “wholeheartedly” supportive of the proposal but he is also Minister for Sport and Culture so how can he support a plan which will see the loss of a cricket and football pitch?

The planning application is made in the name of the Treasury Minister; yes the same one who rightly reminds us that we should be cautious when spending Taxpayer's money. However building in the field is the most expensive option, so how can he support the application?

Last May and before any planning decision was made I nominated the St Martin’s playing field to be considered for the Jubilee Field Challenge and made it known to the other Ministers. However that fact appears to have been ignored because despite several requests I do not know whether my nomination is being processed. Also why have the public not been permitted to participate in the worthy project?

Answers to these questions have never been given, but there is also another. Why was the option of redeveloping the existing school deliberately omitted when the original plans were put out to consultation? That omission meant there was a flaw in the consultation process and an explanation for the omission must be given.

Some months ago I asked the Ministers if they would hold a public meeting to provide the answers to the  questions above. Alas my request was ignored so I am organising one next Wednesday 1st August at 730pm at the St Martin’s Public Hall. The Ministers have been invited and it will be interesting to learn why they can sustain their support for the application.

The meeting will also be an opportunity for the public raise any other issues and hopefully they may be able to persuade the Ministers to reconsider their original decision and save the playing field.

Saturday 14 July 2012

Double Standards

The Voice for Children has produced some excellent Blogs on the Graham Power suspension affair. Although a recent Blog refers to Senator Ozouf’s claim that he was the victim of unfair treatment being dished out by his fellow colleagues it is never the less still on the Graham Power theme. This is because Mr Power was also a victim of the same treatment from States Members which included Senator Ozouf.

The Senator’s memory must be short because he has certainly scored an own goal. Voice has claimed that the Senator does not deserve his “day in court” because Graham Power was also denied his. However two wrongs do not make a right and States Members are supposed to honourable and certainly be “Statesmen like” when going about their business. This being so the Senator does have a case.

If the four States Members believed they had the evidence to lodge a Censure proposition then they should have had the courage to debate the matter. They should certainly not have bolted after the first shot had been fired by one of Senator Ozouf’s allies who seemed to have been found from the other side of the world Their case was not weakened either by the Comptroller and Auditor General's decision to resign, possibly fearing that he like Graham Power may be stitched up on some phoney charge. The resignation should have been taken as an example of the alleged fear some Civil Servants have of the Senator.

The decision to withdraw the Proposition was a poor one because it gave Senator Ozouf the opportunity to cry foul and then claim that he should have been allowed his day in court. Also because the proposition had been withdrawn he was entitled to an apology.

Like the Senator’s decision not to buy Lime Grove I find myself in agreement with his demand for an apology. However before I shed too many tears I would like to remind him and the four signatories of the Censure Proposition that not one of them felt honourable enough to ask the former Chief Minister to apologise to Graham Power for the way he had been suspended.

In 2010 after Brian Napier QC had published his much watered down Report, he never the less did have some pretty powerful things to say, particularly about the shortcomings of a small group of senior States Members along with Bill (golden handshake) Ogley and the former but not sadly missed David Warcup who could not wait to jump into Graham Power’s shoes.

In an attempt to get the States to take some positive action to address the points made by Brian Napier, I lodged  P166/2010 To counter my proposals the Chief Minister lodged P166/2010 Comments As one will see, my Proposition was asking States Members to request the Chief Minister to respond to eight of the failings identified by Mr Napier. The seventh part of my proposition was as follows:

(b) to request the Chief Minister to issue a formal apology to the retired Chief Officer of the States of Jersey Police in relation to the failure of those involved, as identified in the Napier Report, to deal with the Chief Officer’s suspension in accordance with the procedures set out in the Disciplinary Code;

During the subsequent five hour debate I pointed out that in his report Mr Napier had made it quite clear that those responsible for Mr Power’s suspension had failed to follow set procedures, as such Mr Power was entitled to an apology. Although Mr Power was also entitled to an apology for his unlawful suspension, that was not being asked for. The apology was just for failing to follow set procedures. Unfortunately only sixteen States Members were big enough to accept that an apology was merited. Among the thirty Members who did not share that view were Senator Ozouf and the four Censure seeking Members, Senator Ferguson, Connetable Dan Murphy and Deputies Le Herissier and Le Fondre.

The Minutes recording the votes on each of the 8 parts of my proposition can be found by clicking onto this website.   

Senator Ozouf, unlike Graham Power, John Day and now David Flowers was not bound by any gagging order and was able to enjoy unprecedented media support when calling for justice. I would like to believe that lessons about integrity, justice and double standards will have been learnt and that the Senator along with other States Members will forget the spin and play with a straight bat and treat others in a manner that they would like to be treated, but I shall not be holding my breath.

Monday 9 July 2012

Crocodile Tears

 It is very amusing to hear that Senator Ozouf is complaining about being denied his "day in court" to defend the allegations made against him, but are now withdrawn. Surely he can only be shedding crocodile tears, because he was quite happy for Senator Le Marquand to publish the Wiltshire Report about Graham Power after it had been withdrawn. Senator Ozouf is now in the same boat as Graham Power and realising how unjust life is, when dealing with the States.
Also congraulations the Education and Home Affairs Scrutiny Panel on a well researched and balanced Taser Gun Report.
Along with Nick Le Cornu I made a presentation to the Panel on behalf of the Jersey Human Rights Group our submission was very close to many of the recommendations the Scrutiny has made.