If proof were needed, today we found out from the professionals why the JDC’s insistence on proceeding with their ‘phased masterplan’ plans and commencing building next week is at best stupid, and at worst downright irresponsible.

Proposed Esplanade development by the SoJDC
Proposed Esplanade development by the SoJDC

Because of time constraints, we won’t give all the Qs & As that took place over an hour, with Ben Ludlum (FRICS) from C Le Masuriers as the witness, but we do suggest strongly you read the transcript of today’s Scrutiny Panel as soon as it becomes available. Here are the salient points.

1. For companies which are risk averse (ie, not aggressive) with regards building projects, which the JDC should be, then the norm is to commence projects only once 70-75% of pre-lets are made. In fact, banks generally won’t lend for less than 60-60% pre-let on a non-risk adverse project. The JDC is planning to commence with a very small percentage.

2. If the JDC build first, they cannot then sink La Route de Liberation as planned without tremendous difficulties and costs. Even worse, if they worked on this during daytime hours, people in the new offices would experience the discomfort and annoyance of the buildings shaking.

3. Let’s pretend for the minute the sinking of the main road would be feasible to build after the office blocks are up, and now let’s remember the gridlock and traffic jams experienced when the flag came down on a car on the Esplanade (it was shut to get the flags seen to) and when Mount Bingham was closed to secure falling rocks. Now imagine that happening over a few years, day in and day out. That’s what would happen if the road were sunk after buildings had been done.

4. Initially the 1420 car parking spaces first promised in teh masterplan has dropped to 520. Even worse, these would not be good spaces; it would be like having another Sand Street car park which is really not fit for purpose… but also underground and in a tidal zone! The cost would also be huge.

5. The ‘projected’ £50m profits, when and if they come, will not reach the public’s pocket. (Remember, this is your land being played with.) Instead, the money would need to be used to pay for engineering to fix the problems caused by the ‘reverse engineering’.

6. All the plans are based on ‘smooth letting’; that is, as each building goes up, tenants will move in straight away and it will all be hunkey dorey. Instead, JDC can’t even get one building filled.

7. There is not the demand for that much A Grade office space, especially i) in an area more than 5 minutes’ walk from the heart of St Helier and ii) in the UK and elsewhere, banks, etc, are now budgeting for 80 sq ft per person rather than the 150-200 sq ft before the recession.

8. The (very changed) Master Plan is not viable and several rules have been broken.

We say the JDC must halt the project and engage in a review.

Report from today’s Scrutiny Panel meeting

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