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Cadiz on ‘companion building’ to Red House: No need to move courts
The Port-of-Spain Magistrates Court on St Vincent Street will not have to be relocated for the construction of the proposed companion building to the Red House, says Tourism Minister Stephen Cadiz. Cadiz heads the Joint Select Committee of Parliament which reported on parliamentary accommodation and which proposed the idea of an extra building for Parliament. A report by the committee was debated at Monday’s Senate sitting.
According to the report, the Red House lacks sufficient space to accommodate all core functions of a modern parliament, and its historic design curtails expansion and the necessary infrastructure. The report says it is envisaged that an additional space of approximately 100,000 square feet is required to augment the space of the restored Red House and address the growing needs of the Parliament, support services and possible future expansion.
The block north of the Red House was identified for the companion building. This land is occupied by the magistrates court, a Defence Force building and the National Security Ministry in Temple Court on Abercromby Street. On which buildings would be affected, Cadiz said: “We’ll have the architects look at the space and determine if we can use it.”
If the area occupied by the courts turned out to be needed, he said, provision would be made for the courts at a convenient location. But, he explained: “What we discussed was using the area occupied by the army unit and that car park space and the National Security building next door.”
Cadiz said the area occupied by the army and Temple Court were government property and therefore could easily be used by the State. He said this did not necessarily mean the existing structures had to be demolished. The report said it was necessary to compare the cost of renovating the existing structures to the cost of demolition and construction.
The plan also proposed using Knox Street for the companion building, either as a walkway closed to traffic, or built up into the companion building. The report recommends parking space for all MPs and Parliament staff, with a secure covered walkway, preferably underground, to the Red House. A National Security source said yesterday the ministry might consider moving from Temple Court, where space is limited.
The Red House restoration is estimated at $241 million and the companion building construction at $205 million. So far, the parliamentary accommodation plans are only on paper, but Cadiz said the Government aimed to complete the Red House restoration before its term ended in 2015. He said the Red House was rebuilt within three years after it was damaged by fire in 1903.
“That was in the days of mules and carts, and if they could have rebuilt so quickly, why, with all our modern technology, should fixing the Red House and setting up the companion building take longer than that?” he asked. “We’re looking forward to moving back to the original seat of Parliament so it has to be done fast.”
PNM MP Colm Imbert, a member of the Joint Select Committee on parliamentary accommodation, said the plan to use space north of the Red House was not similar to the plan suggested by the Manning administration for the area. That plan was halted. Imbert said Manning had initially wanted to convert the Red House to his office and construct a larger new building for Parliament north of the Red House.
But the block was too small for that. “We—PP and PNM—have all agreed to go along with the current plan,” Imbert said. Port-of-Spain mayor Louis Lee Sing has given the thumbs-up to the proposed companion building for the Parliament. Speaking from Manhattan, Lee Sing said: “We’re at a stage in our development of 50 years where whatever we do will impact on us, negatively or positively, down the road. So I’m supportive of any move that gives consideration to the future. We can relocate the courts if need be, but certainly not the Parliament.”
Lee Sing said, however, he would not like to hear later on that the courts were being relocated to Penal, Debe or Chaguanas. “If my courts have to be moved, I want to know up front they won’t be shifted there, because I won’t agree to that.”
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