Saturday, January 20, 2018

‘Slap on the wrist’ for Greyfriars Church demolition

THE partial demolition of Greyfriars Church of Scotland on Frederick Street, Port of Spain, was as a result of a “calculated risk” by the owner.

This is the view of president of the Trinidad and Tobago Society of Planners, Lennox Austin.

Austin said yesterday the new owner of the property (Alfred Galy) took a risk knowing that the penalty for the unauthorised destruction of the historic building would have been “a slap on the wrist”.

He made the statements after being asked the Society’s view on the controversial development at a press conference held yesterday by the Joint Consultative Council (JCC), at its office on Fitzblackman Drive, Port of Spain.

Greyfriars was partially demolished two weeks ago on an early Sunday morning, after weeks of wrangling between the Port of Spain City Corporation, Citizens for Conservation, the newly re-established National Trust and the property’s new owners.

Talks had been under way for the building to be preserved as a Heritage Site when the first of the demolition activities took place in early November and the Corporation served contractors on the site with a Stop Work Notice.

Galy was heavily criticised when bulldozers returned two Sundays ago and removed part of the building in the midst of what Port of Spain Mayor, Raymond Tim Kee, had said were talks in good faith.

Work has since stopped and discussions continue on the fate of the building, which dates back to the 1800s and is named after its mother church in Scotland.

Austin said yesterday the church’s new owner knew that the fine attached to moving without a permit to demolish was just $2,000 and “he would be ahead of the game”.

The disparities that exist today with regard to fines and modern development must be addressed, as can been seen where someone is fined $2,000 over a $30 million development, Austin said.

Austin said there were many other instances, however, where the City Corporation is the landowner and fails to set development ground rules to new owners.