Media banned from secret ballot on church extension

Media banned from secret ballot on church extension

And journalists – except those who live in the parish – have been banned from covering the parish assembly, which will involve a secret ballot on the proposals rather than the traditional show of hands.

The specially convened assembly has been called in an attempt to resolve a long-running dispute over whether the church should press ahead with plans to create toilets, kitchen facilities and disabled access.

Although the project has backing from the parish and the Church of England in Jersey, as well as getting planning approval, it is opposed by a group of parishioners led by Save Jersey’s Heritage president, Marcus Binney.

Their attempts to have alternative plans to provide the facilities inside the church rather than in a new extension have been rejected by the congregation and Planning.

Explaining the reasons behind the extra measures being taken for the meeting on 26 February, Constable Deidre Mezbourian said: ‘The point is I don’t know everyone who can vote in the parish, so they are going to be checked in to see if they are eligible to vote, as the matter is to be decided by the principals [ratepayers] and electors.’

As a high turnout is expected, and Islanders may want to attend from other parishes, she added that the meeting had to be limited to those entitled to vote.

Mrs Mezbourian said: ‘Everyone who is entitled to vote will be issued with a ballot paper and the count will be made at the end of the assembly, and announced on that evening.’

Work began last month but was halted after opponents claimed it was damaging the historic fabric of the 800-year-old church. Later Mrs Mezbourian announced that she intended to hold an assembly to give parishioners the final say.

Both Mr Binney and the Rector of St Lawrence, the Rev Phil Warren, will be invited to address the assembly before the vote is taken. ‘The decision parishioners will be asked to make will be to agree that the work should continue in accordance with the approved plans, or that it does not continue.

‘It will be for those who are entitled to vote to make a decision on this matter,’ Mrs Mezbourian.

Mr Binney added: ‘The fundamental thing is we fully support of the provision of toilet facilities and a servery, and that the church requires wheelchair access, but we believe this can be provided inside the church.’

Doors will open at 6 pm, an hour ahead of the start of the meeting.

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