SOS Jersey wish you a happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year that includes time around our beautiful coastline! Here’s a letter to you all from SOSJ’s founder and Co-ordinator, David Cabeldu.
This is the first post that I have written for some time and I apologise. I’m now fully returned to near health after nearly two years’ ‘absence’ and would like to thank Michael, Jacqui, Ed and others for continuing to keep SOS Jersey in good stead.
Drop-ins – all welcome
I am sorry not have been able to do much posting on the website or Facebook but this should change. In the New Year I hope to hold informal ‘drop ins’ every fortnight where anyone can come along, have a coffee and discuss any aspect of our work and possibly get involved – more details soon.
The hospital saga
You may know that we became involved in a project that is not normally in our remit – the siting of the New Hospital, and a petition.
The reason is twofold. In 2013 with the help of the UK architects Cole Thompson, we examined the possibility of siting the hospital on the waterfront.
Our work was not acknowledged, although we know that the site was a front runner until it was considered by the two previous Councils of Ministers. Their view was that the land was ‘too valuable to be used for the public’, and it would be much better to build offices and luxury flats.
Then followed the debacle over People’s Park and the ‘non-debate’ that followed. Then came the first planning application to build a huge hospital at Gloucester Street which was turned down following the Planning inspector’s Report.
As I came into contact with so many staff during my extended stays at the hospital, I set out to discover what in fact the truth was regarding their role in the much used term ‘consultation’.
It turned out there had not been any consultation to speak of, if any: these sessions were mainly ‘briefings’ by the Future Hospital team. The petition received nearly 1300 signatures in 10 days which was our aim in order to obtain a response from the Health Minister.
During that two weeks, Chris Taylor, Chairman of the Hospital Review Panel offered to include our question in a survey being sent to all the hospital staff. Results were as our straw poll predicted (namely 82% of the staff and building the questionnaire do not want the hospital to be built at Gloucester Street.)
However this did not ‘headline’ as we would have hoped: the reason being, we were told, was that the turnout was low. On further inspection it transpired that the questionnaires had staff payroll numbers on the forms, ostensibly to stop any cheating, which had the effect of deterring some staff as they realised that they could be identified.
However, it is interesting to note that the staff who supported management did not vote in any numbers (10%).
The democratic vote against building on the site was 82% and we hope that States Members will take not and wish to support the staff and listen to their expertise, as the Health Minister clearly does not.
Moving on, we now await the Planning Minister’s deliberations and Phillips Staddon’s report which is now with the Minister.
Whatever the report concludes, the Chief Minister has confirmed that there will be a States’ debate in January.
The appalling landfill contamination
Why, we get asked sometimes, is SOSJ involving itself in the hospital and the SOJDC? The answer is that the waterfront was, not that long ago, the town beach.
For nearly 30 years we have monitored what has been dumped on to the beach and made representations to the various authorities saying we were not happy with toxic ash that was being spread about (along with other dubious substances such as asbestos-laden building material) – all of this was with the full knowledge and encouragement of the then Public services.
As time went on it became obvious with any development that followed would be blighted by what was below the surface.
People buying flats on the Albert Pier could not get mortgages due to the contaminated fill and the States had to step in. At La Collette, the incinerator excavations proved to be very dangerous indeed to the build and to the surrounding marine environment.
Our warnings that the land was friable and full of heavy metals and would flood at high tide went unheeded. At one point the site records show that the bunker nearly collapsed.
Our meticulous reports backed up with photographic evidence and independent reports was accepted by the then Environment Scrutiny Panel but nobody was prosecuted, despite two official written warnings.
Ramsar area contamination
Our work regarding the South East Coast Ramsar Area, which begins at La Collette, then entered a new phase. We decided to test shellfish in three locations in the area to see whether or not they had been affected by the heavy metal release that we had detailed evidence of.
In the course of undertaking our activities, it has become increasingly apparent that we were not being listened to by the authorities.
Major pollution incidents identified and verified by us and notified to public services were being ignored. It became clear that major shortfalls by public services were not being dealt with appropriately by the Attorney General’s office.
There were several reasons for this with the main one being that the Environmental Regulator was in effect not ‘independent’.
We have, over the last two years, been working with the Attorney General to draw his attention to this shortfall and to ensure in future that we shall be able at any time to satisfy ourselves that legal infringements that we raise with the respective Regulators have been reviewed and (if appropriate) actioned by the AG.
We then decided this year to repeat this study exactly (on the same tides and close to the same date in August) with a further study replicating the exact conditions under which we collected the various shellfish samples. It would have been nine years exactly from when we took the first samples.
The grant that wasn’t a grant
We applied to the Co-Op for funding from their Environmental Grant scheme and heard in July that we had been successful! We set about collecting volunteers experienced in marine biology and had eight volunteers ready to help, so we got ready to undertake the second trials.
We then received an email from the Co-op apologising that in fact there have been an error and the grant was not for us, but was instead for the Marine Conservation Society!
How exactly this mistake happens I do not know, our name is not even remotely similar. We had to cancel the project and we will hopefully raise the funds to be able to do next year which will be exactly 10 years apart.
Dave Cabeldu’s book
Finally, on a personal note: while I was ‘away’, I decided to write a book based on period of my life that later inspired me to start SOS a quarter of a century ago in 1992.
The period in question was a 15 year span 1955 to 1970. The book, now available as an ebook, is a collection of true stories and recollections of growing up at Havre des Pas and the surrounding area, and things that happened. It’s not just about the beach and the environment; it’s about living in a hotel, school, bands, and celebrities that stayed in the area at the time.
The book is called ‘The Fishing Cats of Fort d‘Auvergne (and Other True Stories)’.
Proceeds will go to SOS Jersey.
If you would like an advance download it will be available at a price of £5.00.
To receive a copy which can be read on you Mac, PC or Kindle, just click on our donations page, donate £5.00, and you will receive a personal download link within 24 hours.
Those of you who have recently renewed your subscription will receive one in any case before Christmas.
Thank you for reading this and I look forward to meeting you in the New Year for coffee perhaps at the Le Quesne’s (or other venues).
Please have a very happy Christmas and peaceful new Year.
Co-ordinator, SOS Jersey