Heart of the island
HLG Associates explore the sometimes complex but always rewarding prospect of working with island parishes
Drive into the heart of our island, up steep Mont Felard and straight along the main road heading north. The russet splendour of St Lawrence Church soon comes into view. It’s a proud symbol of parish identity and autonomy, along with the nearby parish hall, school and village pub. Jersey’s parish system: the heart of island life.
Nearby lies another proud, albeit more recent, symbolic amenity, now very much at the heart of parish life.
The Moignard Liberation Garden opened on 9 May 2016. Having enjoyed his life in St Lawrence, John Moignard wanted to give something back after his passing. He left funds ‘for the benefit of the parish’. In 2014, parish authorities agreed to create a memorial garden in John’s memory.
Decision made, the challenge faced was how best to manage the construction project. There was a complexity to the task. Not just converting a field into a garden, but landscaping, installing drainage, creating car parking, laying out paths, patios, plants and pagodas. Plus the ubiquitous petanque pitch, something no self-respecting parish is without these days.
The project understandably required expertise above and beyond municipal resources. While parishes can often call upon guidance and talent from among the honorary and voluntary ranks, in this case St Lawrence sought professional support. Alongside surveyors, architects and landscapers, the parish also engaged a local project management company.
‘There are certain challenges that come from working with island parishes, along with significant rewards,’ acknowledges Rupert Myers of HLG Associates, the organisation appointed to coordinate the Moignard Liberation Garden’s construction. ‘Decisions are usually taken, or least ratified, by committees, for example, whose members need to ensure parishioners are onside.’
‘The need for transparency is high – this is ratepayers’ money after all,’ Rupert continues. ‘Parish staff are usually few, moreover, and often stretched doing day-to-day tasks, with less time for special projects. That said, one of the most rewarding aspects comes from working with such dedicated people, passionate about their part of the island and the people who live in it. With projects such as the Moignard Liberation Garden, we enjoy the opportunity to not only get close to our client but the ultimate beneficiaries as well.’
Building relationships with and gaining understanding of Jersey’s parishes has always been important to HLG Associates, which specialises in the planning and project management of construction and development projects. As an island company, it makes sense to support local clients, and these don’t come much more local than the parishes.
‘Providing support means appreciating Jersey’s overall parish system,’ Rupert affirms, ‘and having a clear understanding of individual parish personality, process and pressures. They are all different – there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to apply here, something non-local companies perhaps fail to realise.’
‘When it came to St Lawrence and their planned garden, for example,’ Rupert concludes, ‘we invested considerable time in clarifying client expectations from the project, their points of pressure when it came to construction choices, the level of communication and liaison required to ensure all stakeholder satisfaction, and so forth. Which we would do again for any other parish requiring something similar in the future, under a working arrangement that works for them.’
The result of such an approach – along with the skill, effort and dedication of all other contractors – is found today at the heart of the island, up steep Mont Felard and straight north along the main road. Just before reaching St Lawrence Church, the beautiful Moignard Liberation Garden is accessible on the left. A few years on from opening, the fruits of local parish labours are truly coming into bloom.