Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Make it a victory for Charlotteville

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Mark Fraser

The Tobago House of Assembly (THA) should now resolve to be instructed by the stinging rebuff it suffered in the High Court over its attempts to ride roughshod over local sentiment in Charlotteville.

Last week’s ruling by Justice Peter Rajkumar upheld the contentions of a Charlotteville resistance movement to the THA’s overweening insistence on implementing its own development visi­on.

The THA was held in the wrong for demolishing vendors’ booths, in preparation for erecting a two-storey concrete and glass building, without securing either legal clearance or local consent from villagers.

Charlotteville sentiment in favour of keeping the beachfront “clean, green and serene” has drawn favourable attention far beyond Tobago’s shores.

Having lost the battle for public favour, the THA has now lost the battle for legal clearance. Justice Rajkumar’s cease-and-desist ruling judicially confirms its projects are subject to environmental and planning laws.

The Scarborough administration must now face the legal and political reality rubbed in its face at Charlotteville.

For its part, the Charlotteville Beachfront Movement (CBM) must accord due consideration to the development plans of the duly-elected THA.

It is no secret sections of the old structure on the beachfront were in a serious state of disrepair and the general area is often strewn with litter and stagnant water, so while this legal victory may count for much, the CBM has to strongly encourage the vendors and villagers to get their house in order.

For it is all well and good maintaining the rustic charm of what is one of Tobago’s unspoiled locations, but no one wants to see or smell someone else’s rubbish as they step off the beach.

Charlotteville is the closest thing Tobago has to offer to the nearby Grenadines—a haven for yachtsmen and women from all over the world, where visitors can disembark from their yacht or motor vessel, onto the sand and into the town, with the main road running alongside the waterfront.

This sort of priceless ambience, with a natural harbour sheltered by the surrounding hills, is worth travelling miles for and Tobagonians—especially those calling the shots in the THA—would do well to appreciate what they have been blessed with and not go around changing it permanently in the name of progress.

So, by the same token, the THA, its legal obligations reaffirmed in the High Court, should engage the court of public opinion by pursuing purposeful consultations with the critical stakeholders represented by the CBM and other Charlotteville supporters.

Together they can sit down now and plot a course for the general improvement of Charlotteville, cleaning up the eyesores, but at the same time maintaining its traditional appearance. And, hopefully, move away from the plan to erect a structure that will, literally, stick out like a sore thumb and forever spoil those serene surroundings.