Robinson-Regis: UNC Todd Street claims ‘storm in a tea cup’

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Land surrounding Todd Street, San Fernando which may be used for public houses. – LINCOLN HOLDER

HOUSING and Urban Development Minister Camille Robinson-Regis described the UNC’s claims about questionable government motives behind a proposal to construct apartment buildings on one hectare of land at Todd Street, San Fernando as baseless.

She made this comment in response to a matter on the adjournment of the House of Representatives on Friday.

In a statement on October 28 on behalf of a group of concerned citizens, Pundit Rudranath Maharaj said the group has several concerns about the construction of three apartment buildings in a green space between the San Fernando West Secondary School (to the north), San Fernando Central Secondary School (to the south), Todd Street (on the west) and privately held lands in the area.

Maharaj said the group has the support of all stakeholders in the area and has assembled a legal team to help them if necessary. The group has written to Planning and Development Minister Pennelope Beckles-Robinson and Robinson-Regis to request a meeting with them to discuss their concerns about the proposed housing project.

Maharaj also called upon the Prime Minister to rescind a Cabinet decision taken with respect to this proposed project.

At a news conference in Port of Spain on October 30, Moonilal referred to a Cabinet note dated September 8, 2022 in which Cabinet agreed to the transfer of one hectare of land to the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) for “the development of multi-housing, with an estimated yield of 72 apartment units.”

Moonilal reiterated this view on Friday. He also said letters between the HDC, Education Ministry and the Planning Ministry’s Town and Country Division (TCPD), suggested that the Education Ministry and the TCPD did not believe it was appropriate to build housing on that site.

“This is back to front.”

Moonilal asked how Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly could have no objection to the land being used for housing while the ministry’s permanent secretary seemed to express the opposite view.

In response, Robinson-Regis said, “the information surrounding this matter is very clear.”

She reminded MPs that under the Constitution, ministers are responsible for different government departments and exercise general control over them.

Robinson-Regis said this debunked Moonilal’s claim that Gadsby-Dolly and her permanent secretary differed on this issue.

Referring to all the documents Moonilal mentioned, Robinson-Regis observed that he was being selective in what he quoted from them. While the TCPD did say using the land for housing did not fit with planning policy for the area, Robinson-Regis said the TCPD also said this could be changed if the Education Ministry did not object it not being considered as part of a school zone.

Housing and Urban Development Minister Camille Robinson-Regis in Parliament on Friday. – SUREASH CHOLAI

She added that Gadsby-Dolly has done so. Further, the ministry allowed the HDC to go on the land to do a geotechnical survey to determine its suitability for housing.

Robinson-Regis supported statements made by HDC chairman Noel Garcia to members of the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) on November 2 that no decision has been made as yet to build houses on the land.

“We are following a process. We have done everything that is required. So really this is a storm in a tea cup.”

Robinson-Regis claimed the UNC was trying to create an issue where none exists.

She also said the PNM will not do what the former UNC-led People’s Partnership (PP) coalition did when it was in government.

Robinson-Regis recalled that under the PP, there were plans to build a sporting complex on the Eddie Hart Grounds in Tacarigua, directly on top of an aquifer.

She said on that occasion, residents of the surrounding communities had to protest and threaten the PP with legal action before the project was scrapped. “We are proceeding in accordance with the law.”

The House next sits on November 11 at 1.30 pm.