Environment Minister Freddie Cohen said that the individual permits could be delayed until developers Harcourt show that firms want to use the space.
His comments follow criticism by the Chamber of Commerce that the plan proposes office space that no one needs. The Chamber suggested that the whole site could end up boarded up because companies do not want to invest in new headquarters.
And Senator Cohen says that he will review the amount of restaurant space proposed on the site – the Chamber of Commerce said there was so much retail and leisure provision there that it could turn the rest of St Helier into a ‘ghost town’.
‘The developers have told me that they are satisfied with the demand,’ said Senator Cohen. ‘I am perfectly happy to adapt the Hopkins masterplan to require submissions of evidence of demand before construction begins on individual buildings.
‘But no developers in their right minds will undertake to dig out the site, provide two floors of car parking and a sunken road, and then concrete over the whole thing if they are not sure of reasonable demand.’
Harcourt’s Esplanade Square plans, designed by renowned architect Sir Michael Hopkins, are based on sinking the road from Gloucester Road to the tunnel and building over the six-lane highway and the adjacent Esplanade car park. The seven-year project will provide 15-office blocks in a grid pattern, separated by public open spaces, sitting on top of two floors of underground parking.
It would also yield the States a windfall of between £50m and ?70m, based on the whole site being leased to developers Harcourt for 150 years.
Senator Cohen said: ‘During the construction period we will need to be satisfied that there will be no significant traffic delays for the vast majority of the construction phase. Clearly there may be a few weeks of delays while temporary routes are moved around, but that that will be the limit.
‘Fortunately, this is a big site, so a temporary road of equal capacity to the existing road can be constructed during the building works.
Some of the people objecting are clearly concerned about the effects of the scheme on the existing town. I will not be proposing significant retailing and will thus ensure that the existing retailing centre is preserved.
‘Some have questioned the amount of restaurant space suggested in the public consultation exercises, and I now intend in response to that to reduce this space. However, at no time was there a suggestion of allowing 30 new restaurants, as had been suggested by some people.’