There’s even the perverse possibility that, like a good wine, it will benefit from being longer in the cask.
So you might even now be finalising plans for a Millennium Park – can’t call it that now, too embarrassing to mention something which was tied to an event near on ten years ago!
The now-diluted Town Park plan was linked to a regeneration of an urban ‘brown site’ serving as a useful but untidy car park, transforming it by expensive ‘greening’ in the arguably mistaken belief that it would magically create a rustic paradise or city lung in a neglected and otherwise unloved area of town.
Well, Brownie points for closet environmentalists, dunces’ caps for those who subsequently failed to grasp the golden opportunity to include underground parking on such a central site with convenient access from the town ring-road.
But then, a little more plan fermentation compounded the felony by proposing to tear down an estate of social housing – of which there are precious few – and a shoppers’ car park nearby, only to rebuild the car park on the once people-occupied land. As plans go, not a sparkling vintage.
Sprucing up the urban environment and deterring commuters from bringing their cars to town centres has grown into an obsession of urban planners up and down the country. But simply denying them parking space is a crude and ineffective policy. The necessary compensation is to provide them with alternative means to travel into the centre.
A scenic ride in Le Petit Train from St Aubin, even in the best of summer weather, doesn’t quite compare with the recorded delivery of London’s commuter underground and bus network, or even the innovative Paris free bicycle scheme. So you might resort to radical measures. Call in the consultants.
Somewhere along the line where blue sky meets slide-rule and pencil came the notion of bulldozing the creaky Le Bas Centre (conveniently parked alongside the ring road) in order both to reprieve the social houses and avoid importing a traffic nightmare in their wake.
If you’ve not heard it, the reasoning was simple. There are States buildings a-plenty both within the town limits and in the green zone in which to relocate the existing facilities. Indeed, the hard-pressed occupants might all benefit from a workplace face-lift and morale boost. It could even start a trend to move commuters out of town.
Brave, expensive, but a likely candidate to plunge the depths of the St Helier cavern of lost causes.
For most planners there is an inherent comfort factor in returning to areas you’ve tinkered with so many times before. So now, Snow Hill comes back into the car-park equation.
On paper it was always a contender, given its history as a transport terminus. Sadly, its adoption would squash for ever any hope of aficionados of train, tram, even cycling, of an eco-friendly route from the east into the town centre.
Furthermore, it is difficult to justify building a brand new car park with a palpably dodgy roundabout exit, given that across the road, with a little updating and the provision of extra levels, Green Street could probably swallow as many car spaces as are being proposed for Snow Hill. Clearly, there are so many more exciting things to do with the whole Fort Regent site.
So we have a real planning opportunity. All the speculation and consultation about what the Fort could be used for ignores what it actually is. It is unquestionably the most visible and desirable lump of local real estate we possess. A historical centrepiece, an acknowledged unique venue as a sports arena, exhibition centre, concert hall, but neglected – not necessarily benignly – while fortunes are spent on facilities elsewhere.
The opportunity for turning this already existing and publicly owned facility into a world-class community arts and sporting centre, with swimming, bowling, exercise, squash, climbing wall, skateboarding, even dry ski slope and gardens, has to be a priority for even the most modest Toc-H lamp-powered master planner.
Think activities deck of a modern cruise liner – the sort of boat that attracts huge leisure appeal across the world but can’t dock here.
Too often we appear hell-bent on creating albatrosses which, before their natural lifespan has expired, are neglected, discarded or torn down. Time, then, for a strategic master plan which capitalises on what we have most of, and combines it with what we do best: our culture, the very heart of the Island’s appeal both to locals and the diminishing band of resilient tourists.
Now is certainly not the time to be seen to neglect our cherished but ‘inconvenient’ assets, which for whatever reason have forced the Jersey Heritage Trust to return cap in hand to the States for cash to manage its own pearls on a shoestring.
Public investment in our living heritage is a plan for the future of far greater merit than adding vandalism to neglect by ploughing public money into razing a shabby, derelict facility on an already scarred cliff-top at Plémont.
Now here’s a plan. Every new developer who plans to create a concrete pile in the Island in order to make a financial one should be bound to contribute a proportion of the investment – let’s not be greedy and suggest ‘profit’ – to Jersey Heritage as an appreciative pay-back. We could call it Percentage for Heritage.
Haven’t I heard something like that before?