Approximately 70 per cent of the residents affected by the new airport terminal project and associated works at the ANR Robinson international airport have approached the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) airport relocation committee, says Chief Secretary Ancil Dennis.
He was speaking to reporters during a tour of the Shirvan Land Development by the THA Executive Council, where affected residential property owners are being offered land at a subsidised cost.
Dennis said: “Persons have now begun construction of their homes. So far we have five persons here, but approximately 70 per cent of the affected residents have already come to the table and have met with the airport relocation committee with the intention of taking up residence at this site.”
He said the planned airport project is critical to the people of Tobago and it is not only going to transform the tourism sector, but it would also “benefit our locals in many different ways.”
Dennis added, both developments – the Cove estate and Shirvan estate – are just as important as the airport project.
“While we understand the importance of the airport, we must also take into consideration the great sacrifice by persons who have been affected at this point in time, and we continue to sympathise with them.
"We continue to understand their challenge at this point in time and therefore, as the Tobago House of Assembly, we found it necessary to go beyond our legal responsibilities to ensure that we had these two locations available at huge discounts.”
He said the assembly and the committee continue to adjust the policy framework.
“One of the challenges we have now is that in many cases, maybe the lands here at Shirvan which are around 5000 to 7000 square feet may not be adequate for some of the persons. Therefore, the Executive Council is considering, at this point in time, an adjustment in the policy that would allow some of those persons to either access additional parcels at Shirvan or have access to parcels at Cove which is larger – 16000 to 20000 square feet.
"So, we are going to allow those persons to be able to access parcels there for residential purposes at the residential rate. Of course, persons must be able to adhere to the requirements by utilising those parcels for strictly residential purposes since they would be getting the residential rate.”
Dennis said it is understood that some of those who have settled have spent the sum for rental purposes.
“We intend to compensate those persons through a discounted rate for the lands. We are looking at ways to ensure that we meet the needs of the people – that we are walking with them, side by side, making adjustments to the policies along the way to ensure that nobody is left behind in this process.”
He added that some people have reached out signalling they may have some difficulties meeting the assembly’s payment terms.
“Of course, the terms at this point in time is that 50 per cent is required at the signing of the sale agreement and once that agreement is signed, persons can begin construction and then they have three months to pay the other 50 per cent balance.
"In cases where persons may have some difficulties with that, we are asking them to come to the table. We will look at their individual circumstances and we are prepared to make adjustments where necessary.”
Secretary of Settlements, Urban Renewal and Public Utilities Clarence Jacob, the electoral representative for Canaan/ Bon Accord, called on the affected residents to take advantage of the available opportunities.
“I want to encourage persons who are pushing the negative – this is not a negative, it’s a positive.
"For all those persons who are still in the process, I beckon unto them, at least fast-track your negotiations so you would be able to come here and put down your beautiful structure.”
The tour was facilitated by Abdallah Chadband, senior technical coordinator at the Division of Infrastructure, Quarries and Environment (DIQE) and also included the DIQE Secretary Kwesi DesVignes as well as the Secretary of Health, Wellness and Family Development, and PNM Tobago Council Political Leader, Tracy Davidson-Celestine.