Politicians in Jersey have scrapped plans by Hassell to rebuild the island’s main hospital on its existing site despite warnings that looking for a new location will delay facilities by up to a decade and mean writing off £27 million
Members of the island’s States Assembly this week overturned an earlier decision to rebuild Jersey General Hospital on a slightly larger footprint on Gloucester Street in St Helier. They also approved the start of a new location selection process.
Australian-based multidisciplinary firm Hassell was appointed in 2014 to oversee the hospital rebuild project but councillors rejected its initial scheme last year before throwing out a revised design last month.
A report published by the Jersey government’s Future Hospital Scrutiny Review Panel last week found that looking for an alternative site could add more than two years to the project. It added: ‘In reality this is more likely to be 10 years because islanders will have to wait until the new hospital opens rather than the phased approach envisioned in the current project.’
The original version of the much-amended proposition from deputy Russell Labey conceded that the net spend to date on the project was estimated at £33 million. A government spokesperson said the total expenditure to be written off from the failed attempts to build on the current site was likely to be close to £27 million.
Labey’s original proposal added that up to nine people could potentially be made redundant as a result of the decision to scrap the scheme, at a cost of up to £400,000.
‘Then there’s the extra spend to keep facilities going safely under the delayed new facilities,’ it added. ‘How much that costs depends on the length of the delay of course; however, as an indication, when the exercise was last undertaken in 2016, maintenance between 2020 and 2025 was estimated at £26 million. If delays exceed this period, costs will increase further.’
The document asked politicians on the island to authorise ministers to ‘facilitate the payment of costs incurred as a consequence of this rescindment and the winding-up and decommissioning of the works associated with the previous scheme’.
Environment minister John Young said, when he rejected the latest Hassell plans for the existing site last week, that the plot was not big enough ‘to comfortably accommodate the proposed scheme’. But he added: ‘A different application may overcome these issues.’
However, Labey’s original proposition said building on the Gloucester Street site was ‘a compromise too far’.
‘More time will be wasted by a stubborn failure to accept this as fact,’ it added. ‘The assembly can end this now, take the political decision that only it can take, and ensure that energy is concentrated on a better site that will deliver a better new hospital.’
The motion – subjected to a complex series of amendments – was passed by 39 votes to seven. The government said its first meeting to discuss new sites would take place in early March.
Senator John Le Fondré said: ‘Members have now reached a considered position, so we will look again at potential sites and ensure that our new hospital is built in the right place for Jersey.
‘We are also looking for ways to speed up the site selection, planning, procurement and construction process, by running some of this work in parallel rather than completing each piece of work before moving on to the next. We want to assess alternative sites and reach a final decision as soon as possible.’
Hassell was contacted for comment.