Thursday 2 August 2012

Public Meeting (Report)

The meeting hurriedly arranged for last night was well attended and interesting. It was also an opportunity for the Ministers responsible for supporting the application to account for their support and to answer any questions the public might want to ask. Unfortunately for various reasons none were present but there were other States Members present who were eager for the public to hear their views.

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.



  1. Well done for keeping such a cool head and dignity at YOUR public meeting Bob which was hijacked by people like Le Gresley who only appeared to be there to shoot the messenger. He and the other politicians intimidated us members of the public into silence which did seem to be the chosen modus operandi of them all. You were able to rise above that gutter tactic which showed who was statesmanlike and there to tackle the issue and not to attack the messenger or to talk about what parish people came from!

  2. The arrogance of Francis Le Gresley knows no bounds. He strutted in and commenced with a personal attack on Bob and didn't even introduce himself to the audience/public. A lady in the audience brought him down a peg or two by asking who he was.

  3. I was surprised at the Senator's behaviour. I can't recall attending a meeting when States Members turned up with prepared speeches. Francis was entitled to a view but I had already informed everyone that there was no dispute about the need to spend money on the school and of the purpose of the meeting. Instead he chose to abuse me and direct attention away from the real issue.

    It is a pity that Senator Le Gresley does not direct his attention to the Historic Abuse Committee of Inquiry and should be explaining why he has adopted a Trapist Monk approach to the matter.

    1. Well said Bob - I agree with you 100%. In any event what makes a Parish 'somebodies Parish' just because they live in it. I live in Grouville, but use the re-cycling facilities at St Martins and strangely enough because I like to look at the playing field and think what a lovely, natural aspect it is.

      I well remember my son playing football on the field as a youngster with the Scouts and Rozel Rovers, and not a pupil at the school. As someone pointed out to me today, Le Rocquier was totally re-vamped on its original site, so why not, slowly, slowly do the same with St Martins. If a little encroachment onto the field is required, so be it, but not the loss of this altogether - please!

  4. Hi Gee Gee,
    Thanks for your comments it would be a pretty poor show if an architect was unable to come up with an imaginative scheme to produce plans which would allow for the re-development on the existing site. Architects have been able to do so at other schools of the same age and design, so why not at St Martin’s?

  5. Dear Bob,
    Just wanted to say how well you handled the meeting, you came across very professional shame the same could not be said for Senetor Le Gresley who behaviour was disrgraceful, I agree with freedom of speech but I believe the Senator stepped over the line of what is acceptable behaviour, its an abuse of power.

    I hate to say i told you so but le gresley sums it up he and gorst both suck from the same nipple bailhache,why do you think he was there this man has lost any credit he might of had this is what jersey is all about greed greed greed my god i wish i was wrong but im not.

  7. Martin,

    It appears that Senator Le Gresley’s attack on me was a memorable occasion and understandably people want an explanation. I suppose the best person to ask is the Senator Le Gresley but I agree that he did more damage to his credibility and it was very much an own goal or two.

    Having considerable experience in both the Courts and the States, one quickly learns that when the other side launches personal attacks, it is because they know they have lost the argument. That was very evident on Wednesday evening because personally attacking those in support for requesting a re-think was very much the common theme. It is always very difficult to defend the indefensible.

  8. Good luck with this. I hope the field is saved.

    Regarding Francis le Gresley, I never thought much of him after his performance at the Trinity by-election hustings where I thought he came across as smarmy, aloof and rather full of himself.

  9. I hope the field is saved too, I also hope that Readers are submitting their objections to the Planning Department, they have until 28th August.

    The important issue is that other schools have been redeveloped on the existing site, why not St Martin's?