Many locals do not see the necessity of further works to the Little Chapel
I WRITE with growing concern for the wellbeing of the much loved Little Chapel. Yes, I have a vested interest as I own what is commonly known as the ‘clockmakers’ and I fear that the latest plans will have a detrimental effect on my business and the site in general. For many years we have co-existed on the same site without an issue.
Unfortunately all communication between myself and the Little Chapel Foundation has now broken down; this stems, I believe, from February 2019 when the LCF made public plans which included adding a cafe/gift shop. The backlash they received from the public was so negative they withdrew the plans until they produced the revised version just before Christmas. These new plans have again caused a lot of controversy from worried locals and visitors alike, due to the plans turning what is a tranquil area with the chapel nestled in woodland into an area covered in walkways, covered areas, and a new entrance.
When the chapel and land was gifted, I believed, to the people of Guernsey, the members of the LCF promised the Brothers that the chapel would be restored sympathetically and certainly with no mention of future development and commercialisation. The Brothers have always been strongly against any form of profiteering and would not have gifted the site if this had been mentioned at the outset.
The conveyancing deeds stipulate ‘Not to excavate the earth, subsoil and rock below the present surface of parcel 1 (The Little Chapel and land) other than in the ordinary course of installation and maintenance of services’. This to me means no development; the LCF seem to be ignoring this important legal edict.
The LCF keep mentioning that the States are somehow forcing them to put wheelchair access to the chapel. However, there are other local attractions such as Castle Cornet and the Cup and Saucer (both States-owned), and these sites would find it nigh on impossible to offer wheelchair access throughout, so why do the LCF appear to insist they have to create wheelchair access at the chapel?
Even if wheelchair access is made, the recently fitted glass doors would impede wheelchair access inside the chapel, and even if they were altered, wheelchair users would not be able to access other parts of the chapel due to the very narrow winding steps.
I would suggest a far better idea would be to get a professional video of the internal features shown at road level for wheelchair users.
The LCF say they need £500,000 to do the work planned. This is an extraordinarily large amount of money. Especially after the general public and local businesses have already generously financed the restoration of the chapel, for which the LCF have done a tremendous job (special thanks to Geoff Simon, who has worked at the chapel tirelessly since the outset).
I cannot imagine that the States will fund this amount of money when so many other pressing local issues need addressing.
Since the breakdown in communication, Mr Silvester has stated that, ‘We are a charity, he is a business and we do not work together’. Both based on the same site, you have to ask yourself why not?
I am currently building a toilet block that will have independent access outside and will be ample to cope with demand in the summer when we have a lot of coaches visiting from the cruise ships. Where is the sense in the LCF spending money building separate toilets? I am also fitting a defibrillator on the outside of my barn so it can be accessed for everyone on site.
One of my major concerns is that the LCF are putting a barrier across the walkway between my business and the chapel. This will seriously affect my business as visitors will see a fence and gate and not be able to easily access my shop and, for that matter, the toilets and, should it be necessary, the defibrillator.
In my opinion, many locals do not see the necessity of the further works to the chapel, therefore an open planning meeting that allows the public of Guernsey to have their say is a sensible option at this juncture. Mr Silvester says a public meeting should be cancelled, this is not acceptable and should be allowed.
If the plans are refused, then I would hope that the LCF members would reconsider their position and let other people who are passionate about the chapel look after it in the spirit of how Brother Deodat intended, so it can continue to be maintained for future generations.
Gold and Silver Workshop,