Monday, November 7, 2011

Salle polyvalente, anyone?

For the senatorial hustings meeting last month the Parish hired a meeting room in a town hotel, due to the fact that the Assembly Room at the Town Hall only holds 250 people, seated, with 50 permitted to stand, making a total of 300 out of a population of more than 100 times that number. Nor was there sufficient space on the dais for the 13 candidates plus chairman, nor sufficient microphones - nor sufficient air! If you have attended a packed public meeting at the Town Hall you will know how stuffy it gets. When the building was acquired in the 19th century, as fire station, police station as well as parish offices, meeting space wasn't a problem as the only people entitled to vote in parish meetings were 'principals', those paying over a certain amount in rates; before that, parish meetings had taken place in town hotels (Plus ca change ...) while elections involved a show of hands in the Town Church prior to the introduction of the secret ballot.

Of course we will never be able to find a suitable space in which to accommodate the thousands of parishioners who could turn up to Parish Assembly, and critics of this proposal will point out that most of our assemblies are only supported by a handful of parishioners. It is also possible for us to make use of referendums on important parish issues in future. Even so, I think it is time that St Helier started looking for a meeting room with a more realistic capacity than the Assembly Room. Two of our twin towns have such facilities, the Kursaal in Bad Wurzach and La Salle Polyvalente in Avranches: both are modern, large enough to accommodate up to 1,000 people, and they also are in much demand for concerts, conferences, presentations, dinners and the like.

I'm not for a minute suggesting that the Assembly Room has had its day. We are making increasing use of our elegant room, with lots of commercial hirings as well as numerous community events, concerts, dances, dinners and so on, with potential to to put it on the town's cultural tourism trail so that more people can enjoy the parish's collection of paintings. But when it comes to holding a large gathering of parishioners, there is only really Fort Regent whose future is still uncertain, and which isn't under the Parish of St Helier's control in any case.

Any ideas?


James said...

The Opera House?

Anonymous said...

What is wrong with Fort Regent or is that too simple?

TonyTheProf said...

In the 1980s in St Brelade, school halls were used for Parish meetings of significance.


Tom Gruchy said...

Pleased to see that you have revived your blogging finger and that it is pointing at your most "unsatis" Town Hall.
Of course, the existing building is not fit for purpose. Access for all is not achieved and the facilities for staff and visiting public are defective. A new building with multiple functions is called for - but where and who shall pay?
Many of the country parishes now have sports halls or community centre facilities which are better than those in the most populated St Helier. The role of Fort Regent has been largely minimised by the refurb of the Opera House and the huge number of sports pavilions for clubs and parishes all over the Island. The Fort (and its empty swimming pool) is a much under-used facility.
Whether it could serve as a parish/States functions facility is not obvious but is worth considering. But the starting point must be that the existing Town Hall must go! That should be the basis for new thinking and that also includes the realization that locations such as Brighton Road school are so unsuitable as polling stations!

Think big Constable. Be not afraid of suggesting any reforms or that any buildings or institutions are not sacred.

If the "private" sector can plan to build hundreds of thousands of square feet of office and commercial re-developments for profit around Broad Street (or elsewhere) then the "community" can surely plan to create a comprehensive facility for the most important Parish in the Island?

Land swap - scratch my back and I'll scratch yours - call it what you will - but surely there is enough financial and planning ability in this Island to sort out this little problem.

Darius Pearce said...

On the other hand for the majority of Parish meetings the assembly room is far too big for the handful of people who turn up.

The solution it would seem is to change the format of the hustings; which currently are not fit for purpose.

Too many candidates are allowed to get away without their complete lack of knowledge being exposed.

They should be more adversarial, in the US style, with a much shorter introductory speech, questions submitted prior to the time and specifically for a candidate with the option for other candidates to rebutt the statements made in the answer, with a right to reply for the person of whom the question was asked.

If these were then broadcast it would serve a far greater number of voters.

The Parish is NOT a business and should cease trying to compete with private enterprise. That is not an appropriate use of my rates money.

Fred Clarke had the role of Constable right; spend nothing and keep the rates as low as possible.

You started well when you took over from Bob Le Brocq removing a whole layer of management, but in recent times Parish spending is beginning to become profligate.

Simon Crowcroft said...

Some interesting feedback here, thanks to everyone who has done so. The piece is in this month's Town Crier which is hitting the doormats now, so I expect we'll get more responses via conventional means.

Darius, I agree the Parish not a business; it's a public service; at the same time, there's no harm in seeking to run things in a businesslike way, surely. As for competing with the private sector, that may happen in areas like residential care and day nursery provision, but these community facilities the parish provides are approved year by year by the Parish at the rates assembly.

if you have any evidence of profligacy in the Parish please pass it on.

Anonymous said...

Gloucester Hall. Holds 2000. Known to everyone. Plnety of parking.