Treasury Minister tells Islanders: ‘I’d like to see a casino over here’

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During a Question Time-style Ask the Ministers event, Deputy Susie Pinel discussed a theoretical reshuffling of heritage assets, moving the Jersey Museum, Maritime Museum and Occupation Gallery into a purpose-built national gallery at the Waterfront, leaving space for a casino at the Weighbridge and potentially connecting it to Fort Regent by cable car.

She was responding to a question about the future of Fort Regent put to her by presenter and moderator Gary Burgess, of ITV Channel Television.

Deputy Pinel said: ‘I have thought, bearing in mind I’m a Jersey girl, I would like to see a casino over here.

‘Now whether it’s at the Fort or if we look further down the road to the Waterfront development when we’re talking about a national gallery, which again I’ve been very keen on forever… If you had a national gallery built, then you could transfer the Museum, the Occupation Gallery, the Maritime Museum into the national gallery on the Waterfront, and possibly the Museum, as it stands now, could be a casino… with a cable car attached to the Fort.’

Deputy Pinel also explained that the Fort could contain a botanic garden, cultural centre and hotel in the future.

Before Mr Burgess, who expressed surprise at the specificity of the Treasury Minister’s idea, asked for the Chief Minister’s view on building a casino, Deputy Pinel added: ‘I think I just dropped him with that.’

Senator John Le Fondré, who appeared caught off guard by her comments, said: ‘The latter bit I wasn’t quite aware of.’ And he later joked: ‘Just when you thought the Treasury Minister was the one who holds the purse strings, she just wants to put it all on black.’

The Chief Minister described the Fort as ‘very dear to all of our hearts’ and said that plans for the site could be unveiled in three to four weeks’ time.

Elsewhere during the first Ask the Ministers session, which was streamed live on social media, the panel repeated their warning about a potential £100,000-per-day cost of delaying the project to build the Island’s new hospital at Overdale.

Senator Le Fondré said that it would be a ‘significant disappointment’ if the project was not agreed and under way by the time of the general election in June 2022.

He also admitted that he had ‘never been a fan of Gloucester Street’ and that when the choice had come down to Overdale or the People’s Park, Overdale had been ‘the better political option’.

Health Minister Richard Renouf added: ‘The timeline is tight – the plan is to get a public planning inquiry and a planning decision which will give a green light to build by the election next June.’

Meanwhile, discussing the ongoing pandemic restrictions, Deputy Renouf said the question of whether mask-wearing remained necessary had been discussed by the Scientific and Technical Advisory Cell on Monday and that it remained the view of experts that while Covid-19 had not gone away, some protective measures, such as masks, should remain in place.

The Chief Minister also defended the decision not to publish minutes from meetings of bodies such as the Council of Ministers and Emergencies Council, saying that this was also the case in the UK for meetings of the Cabinet Office and so-called Cobra group. Those attending meetings needed a ‘safe space’, he said, adding: ‘If there becomes a point where everything that is said is going to be in the public domain, you will see behavioural changes that would mean the minutes become meaningless.’

Senator Le Fondré also revealed that while he recognised there was a movement towards the decriminalisation of cannabis for recreational use, he retained reservations and would oppose such a move if a vote was held tomorrow.

The next Ask the Ministers session is scheduled for Tuesday 29 June.

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