St Helier Masterplans - A track record of 'All Talk and No Action'

Wednesday 4 February 09:08

Mike Waddington of Waddington Architects Interiors and Landscapes, members of Jersey Chamber of Commerce, has recently called for a ‘Task Force’ to be established to look at all aspects of planning and development proposals affecting St. Helier. Here he sets out his reasons and his thoughts:

Decades of “masterplanning” in St. Helier have led to very few successful buildings and public spaces, and most Islanders feel let down.

This is an appeal for action. Let’s give up on grandiose masterplanning and actually start to make things happen in our capital town. A St. Helier “Action Plan” is long overdue, and I believe it should be a central ambition for the Council of Ministers in 2015.

We have a talented pool of planners, economists, entrepreneurs, architects and other designers on our doorstep and we should harness their skills as a priority. Creative people create, after all, so action is better than words.

We would not be alone in thinking like this about St. Helier. Cities and towns all over the world are doing so. Not so far away Bournemouth, for example, has an Action Plan and a clear vision, which states that:

“… by 2026 Bournemouth Town Centre will be rejuvenated so it will be even better, more competitive and renowned as a place of high quality. All changes in the Town Centre will be driven by the need to raise its image as a high quality coastal garden town, ensuring it is:

A better place to live;
A better place to visit;
A better place to work;
A better place to invest;
A better place to learn; and
A better place to socialise ...”

I particularly like the description “high quality coastal garden town” which perfectly describes what St. Helier could aspire to be … a garden town by the sea.

A St. Helier Action Plan would require a collaboration between all key local stakeholders facilitated by a strong, passionate leader who would be empowered to take decisions and make things actually happen. Government can help, by not becoming involved, other than to remove red-tape wherever possible and to promote ‘can-do’ attitudes at all levels. Nobody with boring, procedural mind-sets would be allowed to play in this game.

The key strategic challenges for St. Helier include ensuring that it remains a competitive place for business, largely in the financial sector, and making it an attractive place to live. Given that is appears likely that our population will have to grow, in order to support an aging population, it is vital for us to nurture a new urban lifestyle environment.

In addition to providing most of us with our workplaces and some of us with our homes, St. Helier must maintain its attractiveness for visitors. Part of the attraction may come from our Waterfront, but we must also ensure more marginal areas are stimulated like the North of Town, Havre des Pas, The Old Harbours and so on.

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