HDC challenges stoppage of St Augustine project

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

File photo –

THE Housing Development Corporation (HDC) has been added as an interested party in a lawsuit challenging the certificate of environmental clearance (CEC) granted by the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) for a proposed development on the site of the St Augustine nurseries.

Justice Robin Mohammed made the order on Tuesday joining the HDC to the judicial review claim filed by environmentalist Dr Wayne Kublalsingh and livestock farmer Shiraz Khan.

The judge did so after the HDC’s lead attorney complained the corporation had not been served with notice of the action and had an injunction hanging over its head.

In July, the judge let Kublalsingh and Khan challenge the EMA’s decision to grant the CEC to the HDC.

He also granted the temporary injunction to prevent work from starting or continuing on the site until the judicial review application is determined in court.

On Tuesday, the HDC’s attorney Deborah Peake, SC, said her client only learned of the injunction and the leave application when they were reported in newspapers.

“We are the developer and we have had no say at all…The CEC was granted four years ago.”

She asked for the matter to be dealt with expeditiously.

It has been adjourned to March 8, 2023, for oral submissions, with dates given before then for the filing of expert evidence and written arguments.

The CEC was granted in September 14, 2018, to build a 504-unit multi-family residential development at Farm Road, St Joseph, on seven acres of agricultural land which forms part of the St Augustine nurseries. The seven acres have been used for experimental crops.

The two want the CEC quashed; a declaration that the EMA’s decision was unlawful and for an environmental impact assessment (EIA) before the project can move forward.

In his ruling on the application, Mohammed said Kublalsingh and Khan were not challenging the use of the land but questioning the EMA’s failure to ask the HDC about the impact of the project on the micro-climate of the farm that borders the proposed development.

The men are represented by attorneys Dinesh Rambally, Kiel Taklalsingh, Stefan Ramkissoon, and Arya Mahabir. Ian Benjamin, SC, Tekiyah Jorsling, and Maurice Wishart represent the EMA.

Appearing with Peake for the HDC are Ravi Heffes-Doon, Andre Rudder, and Kimberly Mulligan.

In their application, the two men said the EMA acted illegally and failed in its statutory duty to consider all relevant matters before deciding to issue the CEC.

They accused the HDC of providing false and misleading information when it applied for the CEC in October 2017. According to the application, the men alleged the HDC said there were no springs or aquifers at the site or near it.

However, they claim the site lies over the Valsayn aquifer.