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Grants, tax incentives for historic properties
Chairman of the International Council on Monuments and Sites, T&T (ICOMOS) Rudylynn De Four Roberts is calling on the Government and the National Trust to move swiftly to establish tax incentives, grants and low-interest loans for owners of historic property.
A release from ICOMOS said: “The very recent example of the lack of support by Government and its representative the National Trust, and with neither listing nor tax incentives, is the destruction of the McLeod House in Chase Village, an extraordinary example of an estate mansion containing Hindu shrines and heavily ornamented with Hindu religious iconography and sculpture. There are many other examples, including relics of Trinidad and Tobago’s sugar industry, that are disappearing under the developer’s bulldozers or are lying derelict, vandalised and abandoned.”
The group is appealing for the input of relevant legal and financial experts, but recognises it is not necessary for the Government to purchase or be responsible for every building that is listed. According to ICOMOS, financial incentives are in place in all progressive countries, as this is the only way to encourage and to ensure that privately-owned listed sites would be preserved for future generations.
“These would include tax relief for the cost of rehabilitation of certified or listed historic structures, and exemption from land and building taxes for the continued preservation of historic properties. It would not be fair for the State to list a building and then do nothing to assist owners.”
The consensus was that historic buildings help define the character of local communities by providing tangible links to the past. The release said: “The historic areas in all great cities that we visit as tourists, do not retain their charm and character by chance. All major cities of the world, from Beijing to Agra, London, Old San Juan and New Orleans and the Barbadian great houses and Rose Hall in Jamaica, are governed by very strict rules of conservation and restoration. The most recent sites restored and opened to the public in Barbados are the first synagogue built in this hemisphere, and the house George Washington lived in for a week as a young man accompanying his ailing brother.”
The group lamented the deterioration and loss of hundreds of heritage buildings and sites. Among those it identified were the Queen’s Park Savannah, San Fernando Waterfront and Railway Station, sugar factories, historic residential areas such as Woodbrook, Victoria Square and, now Belmont. In Tobago, the Speyside waterwheel and sugar factory ruins are collapsing and the Blenheim spring bridge is beyond restoration.
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