Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Excavation near Sando Hill halted


SITE VISIT: Attorney Kevin Ratiram, left, San Fernando Deputy Mayor Junia Regrello and councillor Shaka Joseph stand in front of the gravel stockpile located on Southern Main Road in Marabella yesterday. The gravel was dumped just feet away from Marabella Police Station. —Photo: DEXTER PHILIP

Mark Fraser

A stop-work order was served on the owners of a San Fernando business yesterday to immediately cease excavation work near San Fernando Hill.

San Fernando Deputy Mayor Junia Regrello said the notice was issued with immediate effect, pending an investigation into whether the private developer had encroached on the natural landmark.

Stackhouse Co Ltd, located at Pointe-a-Pierre Road, was given approval to construct a basement and a supermarket behind its existing building. But behind galvanised roofing sheets, the San Fernando City Corporation found a major excavation exercise under way.

Concerns were also raised about the material which was being stockpiled along Southern Main Road, Marabella.

Environmental Management Authority (EMA), Town and Country Planning and San Fernando City Corporation officials visited the construction site yesterday.

Ministry of Energy officials conducted an assessment of the construction site last Thursday.

The owner of the business, Truman Lochan Dass, did not answer cellphone  calls and was said to be out of the country yesterday. Employees said only he could comment.

Speaking to the media after visiting the site, Regrello said: “At this morning’s council meeting a decision was made to investigate what really transpired here within the past couple of weeks.

 “We have had concerns and calls from residents, concerned San Fernandians...people who are worried and a bit concerned about what is happening here.”

Regrello said excavation work was stopped to allow a thorough investigation to determine whether the owners were acting within the approvals granted by Town and Country Planning. 

“We had a recommendation from Town and Country Planning who need to ascertain whether guidelines are in terms of what was approved. At this point they are supposed to produce a survey report indicating the scope of work and area they are allowed to excavate,” he said.

Shaka Joseph, chairman of the corporation’s Buildings, Urban Planning and Development Committee, said following a preliminary assessment of the construction most of the approvals were being adhered to.

“We just have a couple concerns outside of that. The building plans were given by Town and Country and the San Fernando City Corporation with approvals to do work on site. So they have plans to do a construction of a building here....the basement and a building for a supermarket,” he said.

Joseph said a problem may arise should investigations prove the developer had excavated parts of San Fernando Hill. 

“Excavation approvals were given to create a basement for parking, but not the quarrying of San Fernando Hill...that is where the problem may arise. The property they are using to develop the building has approvals for the excavation of a parking structure, but they went a little further back and we are having queries where the approvals are concerned,” he said.

Joseph said the surveys being conducted would determine whether quarrying was done at San Fernando Hill.

Regrello said businessmen and residents in the community were concerned about the excavation, as it posed health and environmental hazards.

“We are in contact with the owners of the property, as we are just investigating where we are. We are solution oriented, we are here to solve the problem...not create any new problems for any business people who want to invest in San Fernando. But at the end of the day we have to get it right because our interest as custodian of the city is to ensure that nobody breaches the rules and laws of the city,” he said.

Regrello said his team also visited the mounds of sand and gravel being stockpiled near Marabella Police Station.

He said the EMA was asked to visit the area and give recommendations to the corporation on how to proceed.

 “It is a threat to the health of citizens in the area and we have had numerous complaints from residents of Marabella,” said Regrello.

Joseph said the management of the establishment in San Fernando has agreed to remove the stockpile.

The initial agreement stated that the material would be stockpiled on a parcel of land in Williamsville.

Asked whether the owner would be charged penalties for violating the agreement, Joseph said that would be determined following an investigation by the EMA.

“The survey report will give that information as to how far they went and what belongs to us and what we may have to take back,” he said.