At the time of publishing this Blog there are 57 submissions published on the Planning Website which for convenience can be located here Planning website readers will note that no public comments were submitted until after the public meeting held on 1st August which was a day after the initial closing date for submissions. At the Public Meeting it was agreed to extend the deadline to 28th August.
It is quite apparent that very few people were aware of the planning application let alone of its implications. It is also apparent that many of the public and also those submitting the application thought it was a done deal. Fortunately the public are now more enlightened and more importantly have taken steps to question the application and ask that those behind the application account for their actions.
Among the many questions that need to be addressed before the application can even be considered is why States Members were not made aware of the Field’s status as a Protected Open Space before it was included on the list of fields safeguarded for educational use in the 2011 Island Plan?
The former Planning and Education Ministers must have been aware of the Field’s protected status so why was that fact withheld? Given that States Members were misled is the decision lawful?
As a result of the public meeting held on 1st August it was agreed that the Feasibility Study on the future of St Martin’s School would be made available to the public.
For reader’s convenience it is can be accessed by opening here; Feasibility Study It should be noted that the study was not subjected to any scrutiny. No mention is made of the people involved in the consultation and I who, at the time was the Parish Deputy, was not consulted nor even made aware that a Study was being conducted let alone informed that one had been completed.
It should also be noted that concerns were expressed about the perceived lack of space. There were a number of options considered but one option not included was to demolish the existing school which at the time was not a listed building. Why was that option omitted?
Anyone who knows the school will be aware that there is considerable frontage to school which is taken up with staff parking and a garden area, that area seems to have been left out of the equation, why?
It is reported that the school is a poor state and a considerable sum of money will be required for annual maintenance. If the school is in such a state what use will it be to the Parish who will become its owners should a new school be built on the field.
Surely one option to be considered is to demolish the existing school and rebuild a modern school with a Victorian façade. It should be noted that the school was “conveniently” added to the Sites of Local interest list well after the Feasibility Study. I submit it was added to list to give weight to building on the field.
If one reads the officer’s report relating to the listing he/she states that the school is one of 8 existing schools build around the same period. Demolition may seem a drastic measure but so too is losing a seven vergee playing field.
What is now evident is thanks to the public’s participation more evidence has come to hand which cannot be ignored. As such it is evident that there will be a delay in the planning process. However the delay should not be apportioned to those who exercised their right to raise concerns but to those who by their acts and omissions were hell bent on building on the playing field and naively believed that consent would be granted without questions being asked.
Although the Planning Minister will be busy sifting through the submissions and seeking answers to the many questions which are now posed, the public should not sit back and wait for his decision.
My public meeting, the submissions and the Feasibility Study have raised a number of issues which are Parish related and it is hoped that those issues will be raised via the Parish Connetable and Deputy.
On an entirely separate note: I have made a submission to the Electoral Commission and will be appearing before it at 1130am at the Town Hall next Monday 10th September. I will publish my submission and a report on my appearance some time next week.