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THA loses in court

By AZARD ALI Wednesday, June 4 2014

THE Tobago House of Assembly (THA) has been mandated by the High Court to first obtain the necessary planning permission before it continues construction of a million-dollar two-storey building in Charlotteville.

Justice Peter Rajkumar, in a judgment delivered at the Hall of Justice in Port-of-Spain, ruled in favour of three vendors who sued the THA for evicting them from lands to make way for construction of the building. The vendors are members of the Charlotteville Beachfront Movement and claimed the THA did not consult with them for the mall’s construction on 15,580 square feet of land.

After the THA awarded the contract to Towers Consortium Consultancy Limited in September, excavation work began and several vendors were evicted. The vendors contended, through their attorney Rekha Ramjit, that at the time, the THA did not have permission from Town and Country Planning Division. Also, the vendors submitted, the THA at the time did not have a Certificate of Environmental Clearance.

In a 22-page written judgment, Rajkumar stated the THA is subjected to the requirements of both authorities and one of the vendors, Irwin Hercules, had been occupying the land for the past 16 years. The judge stated in December 2013, what purported to be a bare Certificate of Environmental Clearance, but not attached to any affidavit and not even filed, was submitted to the court.

Rajkumar ordered in his judgment that the THA quash its decision to embark on the construction of the mall, including site clearance. He further ruled that the vendors are entitled to ensure that any further decision by the THA to continue with the project, must be done only when all the “necessary statutory requirements are complied with.”

Rajkumar upheld a submission by Ramjit, instructed by attorney Alvin Pariagsingh, and warned in his judgment, that until such certifications are produced, the THA is restrained from demolishing the booths occupied by Hercules. The THA was also ordered to pay legal costs of the vendors.

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