There are no plans to sell or demolish the house once occupied by former Speaker of the House of Representatives Occah Seepaul. But Cabinet has granted the Foreign and Caricom Affairs Ministry approval to build its head office at the site, at 9 Mary Street, St Clair, said Urban Development Corporation (Udecott) corporation communications manager Roxanne Stapleton.
A construction industry source said an assessment was to be done on the building and what can be salvaged will be salvaged.
The source said concerns about preserving the heritage aspects of the building are being taken into account. Planning Minister Camille Robinson-Regis reiterated on Tuesday that the company’s position that the house is not up for sale and dismissed a Facebook post by conservationist Stephen Broadbridge which claimed that it was, among other similar statements posted on social media. Broadbridge posted that the house was to be sold by the State to a private buyer at a cut-rate price.
A post a month earlier on the Facebook page of the NGO Citizens for Conservation suggested the house was to be demolished and a six-storey government building put up on the site.
Rudylynn Roberts, head of the NGO, told Newsday the group was in the dark about plans for the building, as it had made inquiries but received no positive feedback. She said some of those inquiries were made to the Town and Country Division of the Planning Ministry.
Roberts said the building has historic value and stands in an historic district of Port of Spain, and matters such as these are referred to the National Trust for advice. Contacted on the issue, Robinson-Regis said, “I am not aware that the Ministry of Planning and Development is involved in any such undertaking.”
The minister explained, the Public Administration and Communication Ministry is responsible for government buildings. Stapleton said that ministry has engaged Udecott “to provide conceptual designs, in a bid to get preliminary costings to establish an estimated budget.” She added this will then be submitted to Cabinet for consideration.
Stapleton said no one has occupied the former official Speaker’s residence since Seepaul left it, many years ago. Seepaul was briefly confined to the area under a State of Emergency declared by the Patrick Manning administration when she lived in the house in 1995.
“All subsequent Speakers have since resided in their own homes and received housing allowances as per the recommendations of the Salary Review Commission,” she added.