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Temple owners, ministry in talks

Published: 
Tuesday, April 24, 2018
An image of the Shri Nav Durga Kali Ashram site in 2014 showing some of the structural breaches raised by the Ministry of Planning and Development.

Ministry of Planning and Development officials have met with devotees of the Shri Nav Durga Kali Ashram Temple at South Oropouche in an attempt to rectify the issues surrounding breaches in construction being carried out on the site.

One of the main breaches is a three-storey building currently under construction. This is why Minister of Planning and Development Camille Robinson-Regis okayed enforcement action and the respective notices were served on April 3.

On April 12, however, temple devotees staged a protest over what they claimed was Government’s plan to demolish the temple, which they believed was earmarked for demolition.

Last Friday, however, following a request from Fyzabad MP Dr Lackram Bodoe, the ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Town and Country Planning Division (TCPD) officials and Shri Nav Durga Kali Ashram representatives met to discuss the issue.

In the meeting, it was disclosed that it was the additional structure being erected without the benefit of Planning permission that was the subject of the enforcement and not the temple.

The Ashram’s representatives were told the extensions were “illegal and constituted an egregious breach of the Town and Country Planning regulations.”

During the discussion, it was agreed that another site visit would be made by Town and Country officials to reinforce the adjustments which need to be made to the structure to facilitate compliance with the law. A devotee confirmed to the T&T Guardian that the site visit is confirmed for this week and an investigation has been launched by the ministry.

The T&T Guardian was told the construction continued unabated despite the issuance of a letter of advice and the refusal of planning permission for the work being carried out between 2016 to the present.

The extensions on the compound started two years ago but the TCPD had received a complaint from a member of the public against new development being undertaken on the site since January 16, 2014.

A letter of advice dated January 14, 2016 was issued to Pundit Larry Hasmatally, one of the owners of the temple and the TCPD advised him to submit a plan.

But an application submitted by the temple owners to the TCPD on April 4, 2016, was denied planning permission on April 13, 2016.

In a release issued by the ministry over the weekend, the PS and officers reiterated that “there is no intention to hamper the religious well-being of the representatives nor the persons whom they assist.”

The temple representatives have also been advised to apply for an extension of the enforcement notice whilst discussions continue.

It was disclosed that the building in question is a public building which subjects the property to a number of specific requirements, including 40 per cent coverage, building line setback distances and no approval for the structural details of all of the buildings constructed.

The enforcement notice is against a three-storey structure which has not been in existence for 40 years, as being claimed by the developers, the ministry said.

It added that there is no grant of planning permission for construction of the following: a sub-basement; basement and ground floor at road level.

Additionally, it said there are no car-parking facilities to service the development existing on the site and part of the structure is constructed over a drain reserve.

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