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THA $20m project halted
The Environment and Water Resources Ministry has issued instructions to government agencies to halt a planned $20 million Tobago House of Assembly project on the Charlotteville beachfront until it receives proper environmental clearance.
The Charlotteville Beachfront Vendors Association’s Irwin Hercules said vendors are up in arms over the planned THA building which is expected to accommodate them. Vendors say the project will destroy the ambiance of their rustic fishing village and could hurt its tourism appeal.
THA chief secretary Orville London confirmed he received information on the project from agencies including Tobago East MP—Vernella Alleyene-Toppin—who met with the vendors. CBVA’s Hercules, however, said, “Why does the THA want to build something similar to what our visitors see in their cities overseas all the time and come to Tobago to get away from?
“Several visitors have told us that if Charlotteville is going to become another steel-and-glass capital, they will not return here.” Hercules said for 15-plus years vendors had used structures they put up and which fit in with the rustic, all-natural tourism product that the eastern Tobago village has traditionally offered.
“Charlotteville has always been an unspoilt, natural gem different to other parts of Tobago, that’s what visitors like,” he said. “But Mr (Orville) London of the THA came recently and held a meeting with us saying he plans to build this building costing $19.5 million.”
Displaying a drawing of the THA’s proposed building, Hercules, said, “We’re not against development, but it doesn’t have to take away from the village’s appeal. In fact we’re for development. We have plans to upgrade the facilities we have, but it’s in keeping with the ambiance of the area, and at the end of the day we own the premises we have. We’re not renting it.”
Hercules said THA officials had told vendors the EMA was “obstructionist” and halting Tobago’s development and would be bypassed in the project. “Why doesn’t the THA use the $20 million to repair our link road or improve health facilities? Those four soldiers who were injured in a recent accident lay on the back of a pick-up for almost four hours and two doctors who were visitors had to attend to them with two nurses,” he said.
Environment and Water Resources Minister Ganga Singh told the T&T Guardian yesterday the ministry was concerned about the lack of planning approvals for the THA project and had ordered agencies involved in the project—including MTS—to halt, until a certificate of environmental clearance was obtained.
Singh said concerns on the issue had reached him and he had checked with the EMA. He said he contacted the MTS’ governing ministry—Public Utilities—and informed the minister, Emmanuel George, to get MTS to halt the project until the necessary environmental clearance is given.
Yesterday, London said he had received information from the Tobago East MP and other agencies involved in the project, for which MTS is the project manager. “I also spoke with vendors but I suspect some communication hasn’t been handled well. I’m aware of concerns about the design. I’m not sure if the group has the latest one.”
London said renting out the building was a recommendation and the vendors’ provision for themselves would be considered in any discussion on rent. He said MTS had to treat with the environmental approval and it would have to be determined if a certificate of such approval was needed, or simply an evaluation. He said he planned to meet the group next week.
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