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.


  1. As a former pupil of St Martin's School I do sincerely hope that the field may be saved. It is too good a resource to be built upon.

    Maureen Pinwill

  2. Hi Mo,

    I think you attended St Martin's some time after me. Thanks for your comment, hopefully common sense will win the day.

  3. mr hill.
    i hold out little hope of common sense ever being helpfull with the current states.but you could count on greed .

  4. Martin,
    I can understand your pessimism and there many occasions when greed rather than common sense is the order of the day. However if enough people show that they care about what is going on in their community, they can make a difference. The purpose of my meeting is to allow people the opportunity to show that they care.

    Edmund Burke is quoted as saying; “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." The turnout at Wednesday’s meeting will be an illustration as to whether “good men and women” really care enough about their environment.

  5. Pleased that you have widened the discussion to include the whole Island Plan obsession with "preserving the green countryside" - even though thare are valid and urgent other demands for this land.
    Of course the New Plan tightens restriction even more against building outside the urban areas inspite of the fact that the whole community has a desperate need for many thousands of new dwellings besides sites for new and diversified commercial activities.

    I called for the suspension of the new Island Plan until a proper assessment of housing needs could be made (in line with new census figures etc) but of course the green wellie brigade is all powerful - so the Plan was approved and we are stuck with it for te next 10 years.
    Yet ironically - as you will see and hear if you watch my interview with Bob Duhamel on - he is now starved of the promised funds to carry out what the Plan requires him to do!

    Furthermore,the Housing Department et al are creating a "Strategic Housing Unit" in order to try to discover just how many new homes this Island needs and of what sort etc etc
    Basic information that has always been missing and should have been researched long before this Plan and every other Plan was dreamed up.

    Your little spat in leafy St Martin is just another tiny example of the perverse planning process in Jersey. It clearly involves no "planning" in the full meaning of the word and the discussion about what should really be treated as important and what are the really important uses of land have never taken place.

    We must all remind ourselves and repeat everyday that there are 10,000 working adults in Jersey who do not even have the right to rent proper living accommodation - such is the depth of our community prejudice.
    Besides which, there are 20,000 people who do have "quals" but do not even live here.
    Such is the result of decades of "professional planning" and a discriminatory Housing Law that has been in force since 1949.

  6. Hi Mike,

    The problem with the Island plan is that planning applications do not seem to be considered within an Island context but in isolation. The St Martin School application is an example. We know there is an ever increasing population. We also know that despite a desire for children to attend their “local” school a great many do not. (In Planning’s Consultation Brief it states that 48% of the current pupils live outside the catchment area) However the proposed new school is being built for a single form entry. What planning outside the Planning Application has taken place? What consideration was given to a two form entry etc?

    As the school has recently been given a site of local interest status, it is unlikely that the Parish when they become owners of the existing school will be able to demolish and build affordable housing on the site so where is the gain and what does the Parish propose to do with the school when it becomes theirs?

    I believe ”my little spat in leafy St Martin” should not be under estimated, building on open land particularly on playing fields is an Island issue and she be recognised as that.

    Unfortunately we continue to fail to Plan.

  7. They will build on the playing field I would put money on it if Honest Nev was running a tote,they just do not listen to common sence,I too used to attend the school and have had many a happy hours playing and doing lessons outside in the summer months,the way things work in jersey now, they will build just so you an ex deputy dont have your way,I was there in the time of L J Anthony, John Gough, Mr Doughey (not spelt right)Miss Hemmnel, good days apart from Anthony,s excessive use of the cane.

  8. I hope you are wrong, but I would not put any money on the decision because I have often won the debate but lost the vote in the past.

    Honest Nev, has more than a pssing interest in the matter as he is President of the Parish Football and has given over 40 years service to the Parish, but is still seen as an outsider because he lives in Trinity.

    Mr Anthony was the inspiration to get the field having failed to buy the field behind the school in 1939. You can be sure that if was the Head now he would be opposing the application. He might have used the cane but I did not think he inflicted as much pain as a couple of other teachers I can think of.

    I agree re your spelling. It should be Bill Gough and Dave Dugue who had the hut, both used the cane but that was acceptable many years ago.

  9. They will build there, just work out who might make money out of it and you will have the answer as to why!

    It is wrong to build on land like this, especially when there are other better options available. But heck this is the Jersey way my friend.

    Read this for a typical example, lol, this is first hand experience of the Jersey way.

  10. Hi Linda,

    Yes, to build on the field will be more expensive and yes, Education has admitted it, so where is the Treasury Minister?

    I am recieving some positive responses re attending the meeting and that there will be a good turn out. I was hoping to receive comments from those in support of building on the field because there may be something that I and others have missed. Perhaps the Ministers will be able to enlighten us.

  11. You can use anything of mine for an example any time you like :-) They need to stop building for everyone other than Jersey people and their family members,control immigration properly and keep the States rentals at a rate that people can save up a deposit to get on the housing ladder, if this is not done then we are sunk :(
    Right now they are upping the States rents to almost the same as the private sector and in a lot of cases for sub standard accommodation, which in reality means that people are in fact paying well over the top for what they are getting.

    I would personally like to see certain States Members forced to live in a rabbit hutch States accommodation and have all hope taken away from them of every having the chance to live in a decent home again, just to see how long it would take them to do something about the situation. I would put money on it not taking very long at all for things to change drastically!

    As I have said on numerous occasions too many of our children have had to leave the island in order to have a reasonable chance of a decent future, and our older generation are made to feel like a liability in our society, so it looks to me like a deliberate action that has been by the States over a considerable number of years to cull the real Jersey people, if something is not done straight away to reverse this situation an unpleasant outcome for Jersey born people is inevitable.

    Note. I have spoken to many people and no one I have spoken to wants building on that field, which is why you have not received any comments in support of it :-)

  12. I had planned on making the meeting, but other evcent over ran and conspired to prevent me. I do hope someone can do a write up.

  13. Hi Mark,

    It was an interesting and well attended meeting and I will do a report in my next Blog in a day or two,

  14. Hi Bob, sorry I couldn't make it to the meeting.
    I hope you start a petition - something I could add my name to, to show the strength of feeling INCLUDING those of us who are too busy with modern life, to be able to turn out in the evening.
    All the best

  15. Thank you for your interest, however there is very little time to get a petition underway and it is most important that it seeks what you want to achieve. It is also important that there is space for the person signing the petition to include their full name and address.

    You may consider emailing or writing to Planning expressing your concerns. It was clear from last night's meeting that apart from the politicians who attempeted to high jack the meeting that there are great number of people who are not convinced that it is not possible to redevelop on the existing site.