Deputy John Young spoke out after it was revealed that Piquet House, which the States voted to keep in public ownership in 2014, could remain empty for at least another 18 months.
The politician, who lodged the successful proposal to block the planned sale of the historic building, said that the lack of progress in finding a use for the site was an example of how the States were struggling to effectively manage their properties.
And he has urged new Chief Minister John Le Fondré to review the structure of how States buildings are managed.
‘Piquet House is an example of the problem which exists with States property, and it is not the only one. You only have to look at the La Folie site – it is deplorable that this has remained empty for so long,’ said Deputy Young.
‘As a civil servant I set up the Property Services Department in 1991 from scratch and it was never given the full authority to work in the Planning and Environment portfolio. The department was moved in 2004 to the Treasury Minister under Property Holdings and then moved to the Department for Infrastructure more recently.
‘In my opinion none of these arrangements has been entirely satisfactory. My experience showed me that States property can only be effectively managed if the States property management has the resources, experience and capability and works within a structure which gives it the authority required for all property.
‘I believe this needs to be urgently looked at and I have recommended to the Chief Minister that the structure needs to be reviewed,’ he added.
The lack of success in finding a long-term use for Piquet House was revealed by Infrastructure Minister Kevin Lewis this week in an answer to a written States question from Reform Jersey member Carina Alves.
Four years ago, the States voted in favour of cancelling the proposed sale of the Royal Square building to a private buyer and instead investigate the possibility of opening it for ‘public or community’ use. In his response, Deputy Lewis said that the ‘main stumbling block’ had been the cost of refurbishment, which stands at between £750,000 and £1 million. He said that funding was unlikely to be available until the next Medium Term Financial Plan cycle from 2020 to 2023.
The question came just days after a report from the Comptroller and Auditor General found that Jersey Property Holdings was not meeting many of its original aims and that States property and land was not being managed effectively.
Speaking about Piquet House, Deputy Young said: ‘I have no doubt that the decision not to sell this property in this historic and strategic location was correct. When I brought the proposition I looked around the building and I thought it was in pretty good shape, so I am a little surprised that it could cost £1 million to refurbish it. However, that was four years ago and buildings don’t look after themselves.
‘The point is that the building is slap-bang in the Royal Square and it should be used.’