“If every property owner wishes to take up the relocation offer, then everybody can be accommodated.”
Tobago House of Assembly Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles gave the assurance on Tuesday as he responded to concerns by Canaan/Bon Accord residents affected by the construction of the new terminal and supporting infrastructural works at the ANR Robinson International Airport.
Speaking during a press conference at the Division of Education, Innovation and Energy’s conference room in Scarborough, Charles responded to the Provide Equivalent Equitable Compensation for Everyone movement's claims, 24 hours earlier, that nothing was in place for residents and they were being fed "empty promises."
He said, “There is misinformation out there; most of the information that you may have heard over the last couple of hours is erroneous. It is totally erroneous, it is disingenuous, and I am saying that if you are disposed to present a case, go ahead and present a case, but do so with information that is credible and factual.”
The Chief Secretary said given the anticipated challenges that residents may face, his administration has a duty of care to go the extra mile and assist and treat with some of the social issues that may arise.
“Therefore, we felt that we would provide a relocation option to those who may wish to do so. We also emphasised that each case will be dealt with on its own merit because persons would have different needs and therefore, we indicated that persons should be as open as possible with those who were doing the social surveys, so that we would get the kind of information that can assist us in treating with their particular circumstances.”
Charles said the Assembly would be providing additional options to those who would be displaced.
He recalled statements made by head of the Airport Relocation Committee and former Tobago House of Assembly (THA) chief administrator Allan Richards, who whilst addressing residents during the second National Infrastructure Development Company (Nidco) stakeholder consultation at Rovanel’s Conference Centre in Bon Accord, in June, said lands had been allocated at Shirvan, Cove and Courland and will be made available to the residents at a “substantially, substantially reduced rates" on a leasehold. Buyers would be given a 199-year lease, while residents can also choose to acquire land on the free market.
Charles said 12.5 acres of prime land is available at Shirvan, while 30 acres is available at Cove.
Questioned about readiness of these properties, he said the team is currently waiting on the approvals from the Environmental Management Agency (EMA).
“One of the things we would have loved to have happen before now would have been EMA approval. We have not yet gotten EMA approval but I am happy to report that at the last conversation, I was told that more or less... all the required information is now in the possession of EMA, so then they should be making the determination shortly.”
He added: “The number of persons to be affected is 105. The number of properties: 111 parcels that comprise the 53 acres. There are 57 vacant parcels of land within that 111 parcels, and therefore that remains, in respect of the arithmetic, 54 parcels that are currently populated.”
Charles said the designated areas for resettlement “would be a contemporary development because we’re talking about featuring green spaces that can be adapted for recreational and various family activities. The plan is to put utilities underground rather than above ground. That area is well served by supermarkets and primary schools and shopping plazas and the likes.
“We have also indicated that we would assist, as far as possible, in respect of statutory approvals; as a matter of fact, we advised them we are likely to get a couple of design plans pre-approved so that it would make life easier for those who wish to relocate and construct.”