THE responses given by Energy Minister Franklin Khan to questions from Opposition Senator Wade Mark during Tuesday's sitting of the Senate are deeply troubling. Speaking on behalf of Minister of Planning, Camille Robinson-Regis, Khan reported that planning permission for the development of Greenvale Park was refused on May 31, 2000.
The lands are designated for agricultural use, they are on the flood plain of the Caroni River and most relevantly, the draft East-West Corridor Land Use Strategy Plan identified the site as vulnerable to river corrosion, a warning that it is geologically prone to flooding.
The planned development at Greenvale Park was again refused permission for development on June 26, 2009 and from Khan's response, permission to build wasn't so much granted as it was acceded to after the fact because as the Energy Minister explained, "development of the site was substantially completed” by November 2011.
At that point, drainage proposals for phases one through three of the development were considered and accepted in principle by the Town and Country Planning Division.
By June 2014, when the HDC submitted revised plans for the subdivision of the land at Greenvale, the Planning Division reviewed and apparently found the final plans to be acceptable, not least because the development of the site was almost complete.
Is the public to read into that statement the disturbing inference that the Housing Development Corporation, after being denied planning permission on June 26, 2009, simply went ahead and proceeded to develop the site, identified as protected agricultural lands?
Did the Town and Country Planning Division simply kowtow to the situation by accepting, after the site development was "well advanced,” drainage proposals by the HDC?
In October 2018, massive flooding damaged most of the 550 housing units at Greenvale Park, a development apparently built in defiance of the advice of Town and Country Planning.
It was one of the most destructive and dangerous flooding incidents in recent TT history, and it now appears to have been the result of a series of deliberate and defiant decisions. Had this been a private development, would there have been quite so much leniency demonstrated at each blustery step of this development?
The timelines offered by Khan are worrisome and suggest that people's homes and lives were endangered and remain under threat of geologically natural flooding because of governance imperatives that seem to have pushed for construction in the face of denials based on ecological concerns, agricultural priority and the laws which governed those lands.
A full, independent investigation into the compromises and lapses that led to the Greenvale Development is long overdue.