Skate Park Survey: 60% Back South Hill

60% of people who responded to a government survey want Jersey's main skatepark to be built at South Hill Gardens instead of Les Quennevais Sports Centre.

Just over 2,500 people took part in the consultation, which was launched on Friday 15 January and closed ten days later.

Senator Lyndon Farnham and his Assistant Ministers will now review the results and decide which location to go for.

If Ministers do decide to go with the majority and pick South Hill Gardens, it would replace the Les Quennevais Sports Centre which was chosen as the preferred site more than a year ago.

That followed a public consultation in which 1,150 people took part. 

In June 2019, Les Quennevais was ranked as the best option in a 'Site Suitability Report'. South Hill was in joint third alongside Coronation Park and Grainville Playing Fields. Springfield Sports Centre was second.

Work then progressed towards creating the main park at Les Quennevais, although progress has been severely hampered.

It was originally hoped that it would be ready in time for skateboarding to make its Olympic debut at Tokyo 2020, and then by the end of 2020, but both hopes were dashed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Senator Steve Pallett, who was the Assistant Minister with responsibility for sport at the time, told Scrutiny in June 2020 that he hoped that building work at Les Quennevais would start in 2021.

Channel 103 then reported in October 2020 that a table-top exercise was planned before lodging the planning application, which Senator Pallett hoped could have been submitted by Christmas.

Senator Pallett resigned as Assistant Minister a short time later to support the vote of no confidence in Chief Minister Senator John Le Fondre, which ultimately failed.

Then in a Scrutiny hearing in December 2020, the new Assistant Minister Deputy Hugh Raymond admitted out of the blue that another site was being considered.

Government officer Barclay Harvey said it was because of concerns about fitting the skate park in to the site amid redevelopment plans for the area.

That other site being considered was later confirmed to be South Hill Gardens. This area was different from the South Hill site that ranked joint third in the 2019 site suitability report.

Senator Pallett criticised officers for allegedly looking at other sites without his knowledge in September 2020, which he said was done after Jersey Sport raised concerns about where the park was due to be sited at Les Quennevais.

Channel 103 has contacted Jersey Sport a number of times for comment.

The proposed location of the new skate park at the Les Quennevais Sports Centre, if the government decide to stick with the original decision.

Senator Pallett has lodged a proposition asking States members to approve Les Quennevais as the preferred site, and for a planning application to be submitted by 26 February.

That debate is scheduled for Tuesday 9 February.

The Jersey Skateparks Association has since taken to social media to explain the situation from its perspective - revealing that the new option of South Hill Gardens which came to light last summer was something it had to look into because a town site is what it wanted from the beginning.

While Les Quennevais Sports Centre did finish top of the 2019 site suitability report overall, it came bottom for accessibility. That was why the government planned to introduce smaller satellite parks across the island, but mainly in St Helier.

The government says both sites have enough space for a 2,000 square metre skate park and the timescale for delivery would be approximately the same.

These timeframes would be subject to successful planning applications.

Deputy Raymond has suggested that the site out of the two that isn't chosen will 'very likely become a secondary location' to serve the needs of skaters in both areas.

The South Hill Gardens feasibility study has also now been published online. It outlines the benefits of this site as:

  • Better satisfying the original objectives of providing modern, accessible and open facilities that are an environment for users where they feel safe and supported within and enable progression to a high level.
  • Providing more of an equal opportunity for children and young people across a broader range of household income
  • Being strategically located closer to the most densely populated areas of the island and would therefore experience significantly greater usage
  • Satisfying the preference of the children and young people originally consulted
  • Providing satellite facilities around the island to better correlate with population distribution.
  • Offering the opportunity to reinvigorate a forgotten and neglected area of St Helier
  • Giving an opportunity to create a leisure corridor from Snow Hill to Havre des Pas through the skatepark and redevelopment of Fort Regent
  • There is an ongoing social housing development that will increase population density in the area
  • There is a private residential development planned for South Hill Offices that would further increase population density in the area
  • There are plans to redevelop the existing playground next to the South Hill Offices as part of the private residential development and this could be linked to the skatepark

The government says the chosen area for Les Quennevais is 'further from public transport links, parking and other amenities available within the main sports centre building.'

The original South Hill sites were both 1100 square metres. The new proposed site is an extension of one of those sites to include other nearby areas so a 2,000 square metre skatepark can be accommodated.

The site suitability of both Les Quennevais and South Hill has now been updated - with both sites given the same score.

Accessibility to Les Quennevais has been reduced from 5.00 to 2.50, other project interconnectivity has been reduced from 10.00 to 2.50, and engineering suitability has been increased from 2.50 to 5.00.

It's estimated that building the main skate park at South Hill Gardens, as well as other satellite facilities, would cost £1,157,500.

The government has set aside £685,000 for the skate park project in 2021. Ports of Jersey is also providing funding for the project.

The Jersey Skateparks Association says it would prefer South Hill Gardens.

"The Jersey Skateparks Association are grateful for the work undertaken to find an alternative and better site for the main skatepark facility. We understand the challenges we would face in changing the location to South Hill Gardens but feel this would be the best site for the majority of users and meets with our original aspiration of achieving a skatepark in St Helier."

The report also states support for the town site from the Children's Commissioner's Office, the Jersey Youth Service, St Helier politicians, Jersey Sport, and the Jersey Development Office. The latter are contributing £425,000 to the project.

The South Hill site is within a Grade 2 listed place, a protected open space, the La Collette Outer Hazard zone and an area of archeological importance.

Despite this, the report states that a Land Use Planning Assessment has confirmed the skate park development would be suitable within that hazard zone.

"A briefing was held with Planning and Building Services – Historic Environment Team at which the listed status of the site and the potential impact on this was discussed. The challenge of designing a facility with minimal impact on the listed place(s) and surrounding listed buildings was highlighted but the proposals were not dismissed.

"The status of the site as a listed place and the archaeological potential present a significant challenge to the skatepark development. There is however, scope for mitigation of the impact in the design and a heritage consultant and archaeologist would be appointed to assist in reducing the impact to an acceptable level."

Les Quennevais does not have any similiar grading restrictions.

In emails seen by Channel 103, Senator Pallett has raised concerns about the Grade 2 listing, the proposed South Hill site being close to a main road, no toilets being nearby and the lack of nearby cafe and refreshment facilities.

On the south site being close to Mount Bingham, the report states that the risk can be mitigated 'to an acceptable level'.

"The road is a hazard and may present risk to the users of the skatepark. There are also other road safety hazards that need to be considered. A preliminary road safety assessment has been undertaken as part of the feasibility study to assess road safety risk and identify mitigation measures. The assessment concluded that road safety risk can be mitigated to an acceptable level.

"There are high, shear rock faces along the west/north west of the site that present a risk of rock fall. This has been assessed and modelled by a geologist. It has been confirmed, that this can be managed with a relatively low cost rock fall barrier."

The report also shows that there is a higher risk of South Hill being refused planning permission than at Les Quennevais.

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