There was a remarkable Corporate Services Scrutiny Hearing today (15 January 2018).
In Island terms it was probably the most important hearing I have ever attended – and I have attended hundreds.
This was just billed as a Quarterly Hearing with the Chief Minister but Senator Gorst was supported by Senators Green and Routier besides Deputy Wickenden plus the new CEO of the States - Charlie Parker - and Paul Bradbury. It was evidently special.
Deputy Wickenden’s participation was limited to declaring his name. He did not utter another word so we have no reason to know why he was present for the hearing that lasted from 10 am to 11.30am.
The general public was absent. That was another reason why it was a remarkable event.
Just one member of the assumed “accredited press” plus me and a clerk from the CM’s office occupied the public gallery seats.
Deputies Le Fondre, Bree, K. Lewis and Senator Ferguson formed the “panel.”
Much of the hearing was concerned with the “New Hospital” project.
The CM was disappointed that it had been refused “planning permission” but not surprised. That was the process – these things happen.
Would it proceed? Yes said the CM and he supports Minister Green.
He will not be calling for his resignation. He had put three years of his life into the project at the risk of his health and is the person we want to support to get it through.
The CM said he had not had a long list of people knocking on my door saying Green should resign.
The public will have their say at the May elections.
Who was responsible for the failure of the PE application? Senator Green responded “I am” but Senator Routier volunteered that “We are all responsible”
Minister Green confirmed that he intends to proceed with this “site” the design for which needs further mitigation. But the meaning of the words “site” and location” could not be clarified or agreed. The States had agreed to this as the preferred “site” but this may have to change.
It is the ”location” that is fine explained the CM – there is a “site” issue but that does not mean the “location” is wrong. The Planning Minister also decided it is the correct “location.”
Although the Inspector had decided that the “site” was far too small it was not the “location” that was rejected.
The CM’s Ministers will now go away and study the Planning Inspector’s Report and the PE refusal and advise on the way forward.
The development might need a new “footprint.”The proposed building was too large.
But Green confirmed that clever design alone won’t be enough and the ”Rochdale guidelines” on outline planning applications won’t be adequate either. More detail will be needed.
The existing design proposal could not be just “finessed” to make it acceptable.
Was the States and the public misled with incorrect information about the development’s size, height and the Architectural Commission role? No
Nevertheless, the CM also confirmed that the public may need to have the opportunity to look at the other sites so that they will understand how they would all fail the planning test of suitability. There is no easier site. Senator Green claimed that at least 50 other “sites” or “locations” had been previously considered but rejected.
With regard to acquisitions of adjacent properties Senator Green confirmed that one flat had so far been purchased and negotiations with other owners were proceeding with Eddie Noel’s department.
Although no PE permission had yet been obtained discussions with a possible building contractor had commenced and this process was not premature – it being in accordance with UK Treasury Guidelines.
The St Peter catering leases had been signed. Cost? That is a question to ask Eddie Noel
Could the process be completed before the May elections? Nobody knows for certain but the CM hoped so.
The Ministers had to consider with their professionals, the public consulted on other “sites or locations,” new plans prepared, the States would have to debate it, submission to PE made and there would almost certainly have to be another Planning Inquiry and it took from July to November to establish the previous Inquiry.
Senator Green rejected the suggestion that hospital senior practitioners only had been consulted on this project.
Had there been test drilling on the “site”? Yes and it was continuing yesterday.
How much has been spent so far? £24 millions.
Will the redesign incur extra costs and will the contingency fund be drawn upon? The footprint will change but not the size so the cost to build may not increase.
This part of the hearing ended at 11am and a very interesting discussion of the Immigration/Migration proposals followed.
Then a short look at progress on the “Transformation Scheme” which was ”not a failure” but had led to the recruitment of the newly appointed CEO Charlie Parker, who said a few words……
Further details of the whole hearing will be posted on the Podcasts section of the Scrutiny Website in due course for those who are interested.
But on the evidence of today’s lack of public interest that won’t be many.