Construction of the high-rise buildings which will line the waterfront along Lady Hailes Avenue will begin in May, says San Fernando West MP Faris Al-Rawi.
However, regularised squatters awaiting relocation from Kings Wharf will have to wait a while longer before they are removed from the site.
Speaking to Guardian Media, Al-Rawi, who is the Local Government Minister, said the Urban Development Corporation of T&T (Udecott) has been putting systems in place to relocate the squatters.
“During the redevelopment of San Fernando, the road widening (at Lady Hailes) and other structures, we identified two types of squatters—some are commercial and some are residential. Udecott is in the process of working out relocation to an alternative site which has to be prepared first. They had some delays because of rainfall,” he explained.
He noted that squatter relocation has been done five times before.
“During Mr (Patrick) Manning’s tenure, homes were identified, marked and payments made. I took the approach and said let’s begin construction and that way, we had people volunteering to leave. That worked better,” he said.
“There is a process by which this relocation will be managed and it should be soon and smoother than expected.”
Asked whether the relocation will occur this year, Al-Rawi said Udecott will have to decide.
In the meantime, they are moving ahead.
“We are making the most of the dry season. We opened the Customs site to a new building. We are now at the ministry’s PTSC site which has been cleared and construction of the high-rise buildings will start by May this year and pre-works before that,” he added.
He noted that Udecott would be paid by the City Corporation to maintain Skinner Park. Once local government reform comes into effect, Skinner Park will fall under the control of the corporation.
On January 20, the residents of Lady Hailes Avenue staged a protest over the delays in relocation. They complained of excessive dust and flooding inside their homes since the construction started. Seven families are directly affected.
Resident Zaleena McKay said her children were falling ill because of the dust. McKay said last year she and other affected families were taken to Thompson Gardens in Ste Madeleine to see HDC homes for rent.
However, since then, she said, they have heard nothing, and the dust from the site has gotten worse. She said the Land Settlement Agency has already approved the residents’ relocation, but the Government has delayed the process.