What the minister giveth…

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Actually, that is not quite true, because at the moment it is all sort of loose, and in principle, and dependent on other things, but that doesn’t sound as snappy and sometimes the fact that nothing is actually happening yet can just muddy the waters. Anyway, on the one hand there is the welcome news that St Ouen could become Jersey’s first national park.

The idea that some kind of permanence will be given to the protection of a wild area of the Island is just great. It will be interesting, though, to see what impact this has on the soon to be submitted plans for the Watersplash. The other issue of note is where the ‘higher bar’ will be set for development in the area, given that a blanket ban has been deemed unworkable.

This will, quite apart from the message that the designation would send out, be a vital aspect of the change because without unequivocal sets of rules which cannot be misinterpreted, misconstrued or manipulated, the protective status will count for little. Anyhow, gripes before the proper consultation has taken place aside, this is a good piece of news for the Island and the natural environment.

The only real downside I can see – and this really could just be me – is that by protecting one area, we give the impression that there can be an open season on development in areas without a status stamp.

Despite these minor moans, that was the giving with one hand, the taking away is Environment Minister Freddie Cohen’s backing of plans for homes at Westmount Quarry, even if it does come with the caveat that the final decision will not be made until issues such as the buildings’ height have been resolved.

It is not that I have any particular argument with putting housing on the site. It seems a lot more sensible than handing it over to Tesco, for instance. But why, you wonder, is Senator Cohen giving tacit support to a project to which is seems so many changes need to be made?

Surely it would be better not to give such an indication, but rather to consider the plans again in their entirety once they have been changed. The developers of the site would be Dandara and the plans are by architect Sir Richard McCormack, whose designs Senator Cohen does appear particularly keen on, and local firm Axis Mason.

It certainly seems as if the planning officers involved would rather see the plans deferred, given that they appear to have earned the labels of over-developed, cramped and excessive in height.

There is, somehow, a little touch of déjà vu about all this as well, in that although the parish of St Helier backed the scheme, they appeared to back a smaller one. Perhaps it is unfair to take it out of context and in isolation, but it is rarely good when the words ‘wholly inappropriate in terms of its siting’ are used in a report about plans which appear to have at least a nod from the man in charge.

A stray vote for Sunday elections

THIS is a public apology to Suzette Hase who, not being partisan at all here, I would have loved to see taking a seat in the House.

I have discovered that due to unforeseen circumstances, her lack of a seat is the combined fault of myself and another member of staff at the JEP who shall remain nameless.

My part in the fiasco has nothing to do with the voting as such, it is simply that on the way out of the polling station, I rashly wished her good luck. It was a moment of madness. I would not normally be so gushing and forthcoming, and yet there it was.

It was such a stupid thing to say, but it just slipped out. It was the verbal equivalent of going to watch a national game, be it football or rugby. Not watching virtually guarantees a win and it being ‘one of the best matches ever played’, while watching it, especially in a public place, makes the opposite a certainty.

My colleague’s part in this is more sinister in that he and his wife, who had every intention of voting for Hase, did not make it to the polling station because the strength was being sapped from their bones by screaming twins beset by ear infections.

It is fair to say that any excuse involving screaming and children is enough to get my sympathy – if not always my help. If it is any comfort at all, Suzette, they find the fact that their vote would have made a very significant difference as galling as you may to hear the news that there was that swing vote of support out there.

I did not bring this to public attention to cause any psychological damage to any of the parties involved, but merely by way of illustrating one of those little facts of life and proving that each individual vote really can make a difference.

If I’m honest, I also mention it because it is one of those stories which made me slap my head and say ‘Noooo!’

My colleague also made the point that had voting been held on a Sunday, he and his wife might have been in a better position to either go out individually over the course of the day or get someone in to sit with the children.

Again, this is not the first time that weekend voting has been suggested, but it would be intriguing to know what the arguments against it are when it seems that it would just be easier for everyone – even if they are not trying to cope with testy infants, but just the rigours of a normal week.

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