Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Millennium Town Park - 'Framed'?

The creation of the Millennium Town Park is shockingly overdue. As long ago as 1997 the Policy & Resources Committee felt the need to explain the delay in realising the project, putting it down to the complexities of the contaminated ground; since then, successive committees have commissioned feasibility studies, contamination reports and masterplans, which if placed together would probably fill a large bookshelf.

Many of the consultees involved in the early stages of the plans for a Town Park were primary school children: their models of how the completed park might look were displayed in the Town Hall, and various meetings held there with stakeholders, whose views on the type of park facilities were sought and carefully recorded. It is an indictment of the States relationship with the public that senior politicians have, since the late 1990s, simply ignored the outcomes of those early consultations. Meanwhile, the school children who contributed their vision of the new park have grown to adulthood, convinced, one must assume, that the States of Jersey cannot be relied upon to act upon the wishes of the people.

The majority of those who have campaigned for a Town Park, including the Millennium Town Park Group, have pledged to see the whole of the site used for open space. The Parish of St Helier has indicated that it would wish to see the roads bordering the site incorporated into the whole, albeit as paved areas where vehicular access to properties is still required.

One of the myths which some States Members have subscribed to is that such open spaces need to be framed by buildings. This view is especially espoused by the Planning Minister, Senator Freddie Cohen, who also wished to see the newly paved Weighbridge Square allow for a National Gallery at the Old Harbour end, to stop the open space from ‘bleeding’. The hoggin petanque pitches that were laid down were seen as a useful ‘temporary’ treatment of the end of the square earmarked for the gallery, but even the Minister would admit that such is the success of the new petanque space that it is likely to be permanent.

I don’t agree that the Town Park site needs to be ‘framed’ by terraces of new buildings along their edges. Early studies by imported consultants indicated that in the case of the Town Park, the surrounding properties would benefit from substantial increases in value, due to their position on the edge of the park, and that, in time, there would inevitably be investment in those properties that currently ‘turn their backs’ on the site. It should be pointed out that this process has already begun, with award-winning development of terraced houses on the south side of Gas Place.

As a member of the political steering group of the current master-planning process for the north of St. Helier, I pointed out at my first meeting with Hopkins, the chosen architects, earlier this year, that there was this historical opposition to building on the park; however, I have been disappointed to find out recently that they will be proposing the construction of housing on both sides of the park. The reasons given are likely to be aesthetic as well as financial, but I would argue that the open space provided by the two sites is simply too small to be compromised in this way.

The argument will be made that the Ann Court site, once cleared of housing, can provide additional open space, as well as new housing units, but I would argue that it is a case of both - and, not either - or; St Helier will only prosper as the focus of the majority of new housing developments if town residents have sufficient open space.

When I presented the petition for the creation of the Millennium Town Park to the States in 1997, and it was adopted with only two votes against, I believed that this decision would safeguard the sites against those who wished to see buildings upon them. Twelve years on from that near-unanimous decision I think that the time has come for the States to show once again that it is committed to the creation of the Millennium Town Park across the whole of the site, in recognition of the fact that the need for open space in St Helier has increased.

For the benefit of anyone who doesn't remember the Town Park petition, (P.190/1997), here it is:


To His Excellency General Sir Michael Wilkes, K.C.B., C.B.E., Lieutenant-Governor.

To Sir Philip Bailhache, Bailiff, President.

To the Members of the States of Jersey.

The humble petition of the inhabitants of the Island of Jersey shews –

(a) there is substantial public support for a public Town Park with underground car park (“the Town Park”) on the land currently comprising the public car park at Gas Place and the private car park occupying the site of the former Gas Company offices and workshops, the whole situate between Bath Street and the new Gas Company offices (“the entire land”);

(b) the maintenance of an open space on the entire land is desirable to ensure the quality of life of the residents and users of St. Helier;

(c) the Park would be a desirable and appropriate project to reflect aspirations for the future of St. Helier as a vibrant urban environment in the twenty-first century;

and accordingly your petitioners pray that –

(1) the Town Park be created on the entire land;

(2) the Town Park be known as the Millennium Town Park;

(3) the Town Park constitute a Millennium project for the benefit and enjoyment of future generations of Jersey, the residents of St. Helier and their children;

(4) the entire land should not be used for a multi-storey car park or other uses precluding a public park.

And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.

Countersignature of
Member presenting...................................................................... A.S. Crowcroft

Number of signatures.................................................................................. 16,404


TonyTheProf said...

I've often thought the simplest option would have been a "roof garden", i.e, take the current car park, and build a park on top of it. After all, the car park by the cinema has a green grassy area on top of it. No messing around by having to dig underground, except for foundations.

The Kensington Roof Gardens – now simply called the Roof Gardens – is a roof garden atop the old Derry and Toms building on Kensington High Street. These are the largest roof gardens in Europe, covering 1.5 acres or 6,000 square metres.

If they can do it, why can't we?

Anonymous said...

The Gas Place area is largely surrounded by commercial properties and the park will not front many dwelling at all.It will also provide little amenity to the Ann Place residents unless a hole and access is knocked through Tunnel Street. Put back the Tunnel perhaps?

Ann Place would lend itself to be an open space linked to the Arts Centre to make a genuinely enjoyable place all the year round
for all age groups. Some car parking could be included but if it is now to be levelled why not just grass it over and see what happens for little cost?

The Gas Place fiasco is largely the result of the failure of Town Deputies and You besides any socially minded Senators or stray Country Constables to push the matter. The Planning Department has also totally failed to carry out the planning studies that have been laid down in successive Island Plans. Now, all of a sudden yet more expensive UK Consultants are being employed to cobble together instant solutions to very big areas of St Helier ( such as from St Saviour's Road to David Place and beyond) whereas there is simply no realisic hope that sufficient funding will be found to do the re-building job properly.

Big ideas with no money will be the order of the day and all sorts of expediences and inadequacies of talent and commitment will ensure that the St Helier Ghetto project rolls on. Meanwhile, the cows and Senator Cohen and most others with influence, will continue to enjoy the privileges of country life and you Mr Constable will continue in your delusion that St Helier might be made a pleasant place for most people to live in. Wake UP! Face reality. St Helier can only get worse. Build outside of the urban box!

Anonymous said...


I totally agree with you, there should be no residential development on the town park site. This is the wishes of the developers and those politicians in their thrall. It is not what the parishioners of St Helier want!

We want a natural and pleasant space to walk through and enjoy, a green lung in the urban centre, somewhere for our children to play.

For once lets forgo the greedy temptation to make a quick buck and cover this precious space in concrete. Let's put the needs and well being of the town dwellers of St Helier first. We don't have the luxury of leafy lanes and large gardens. It's our town let us have our say!

We have countless new flats and dwellings already springing up all over St Helier enough is enough.

Will you be starting another petition to stop them moving the goal posts yet again? If so let us know where we can sign up.

It ain't rocket science said...

Gas Place : parking and roof garden on top

Ann Court : open space - simple lawn like People's Park, possibly some floral borders

Snow Hil : multi + lifts to fort

So simple ..... too simple for Jersey!!

Anonymous said...

Funding for the regeneration of St Helier is supposed to be produced by the Waterfront "Esplanade Quarter" development, so any dreams of Utopia here should be put on hold for a few more decades.
All over the world the construction cranes have gone idle since capitalism went bust and little tax haven economies have been among the worst hit.

If the burghers of St Helier want regeneration and parks for people or cars then they must find the money from somewhere but the progress of turning St Helier into the island refuse dump seems to have more island wide public support.

Anonymous said...


Re previous poster, who raise the issue of car parks. Most cars come into St Helier from outside Parishes to work, shop, make use of the amenities, so perhaps they should have to pay a premium to park in town, or park in the outskirts and make their way into town using public transport or god forbid under their own steam.

My point is that many people commuting into St Helier live in the lovely leafy countryside, but want to condemn us town dwellers to a concrete jungle of car parks and flats for their convenience. They continue to enjoy the delights of relatively low rated unpopulated rural splendour from which they can pop into their cars and pollute the town for a few hours work then retreat again.

This is not right. The rural parishes should contribute to the funding of the town park, as if it were not for the commuters we would not need so many car parks in the first place, and if they allowed a bit more development in the countryside we wouldn't need so many flats.


Frustrated of St Helier!

Anonymous said...

I agree with 'Frustrated of St Helier'
the Town Park is an island thing and should be paid for by the whole island. And I no longer live in St Helier!

Anonymous said...

And now WEB has plans to become some sort of privately financed development and planning entity for the entire town of St Helier!!
Run for the hills before its too late.
And Cohen and his cronies are supporting the madness too. Who needs a public interest? Just return to Thatcherite free-market capitalism and turn St Helier into a wonderful investment opportunity!!!! Come on Constable -wake up - speak for your parishioners and at least try to protect their interests.

Nick Palmer said...

Many thousands of people signed a petition agreeing that Gas place should be a park with an underground car park.

I think we have been told that it would be too expensive to decontaminate the land, so an underground car park is "out of the question". I'm not sure how they can be planning other development on the site - surely it would still need expensive decontamination? They can't use the same excuse twice to different effect depending on what is being proposed, surely?

Given that the peoples' preferred solution looks unlikely, I like Tony the Prof's roof garden. A two story car park, recessed slightly underground with a humongous, glorious garden/park/Eden on top could work well.

Imagine being up on a level with the rooftops of St Helier - cor - what a sight. Dick Van Dyke ( in "Mary Poppins") made the smoky rooftops of old London town seem magical - up there in Crowcroft's Eden one would be isolated from the traffic and the humdrum. Anyone been to Central Park? Looking around at crazy New York city, yet feeling isolated from it, is a very nice experience.

Maybe we could recreate that here.

Nick Palmer said...

Simon - you might like to look at my blog post on this subject
roof garden blog post where I go into a bit more detail, with pictures and flowery language etc.