ENVIRONMENTALIST Derek Hearn has applauded the High Court’s decision to stop the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) from continuing work on the controversial Shirvan-Store Bay Local Connector Road.
But he claims his business has been “destroyed” since the start of construction over two weeks ago.
“This has been very frustrating because I still have workers to pay because we have not been able to do any work,” Hearn, 62, told Sunday Newsday.
Hearn owns a 50-acre estate at Friendship Road, Canaan, comprising an organic farm, stable, apiary, an old wooden house, well and two mills, the larger of which is his home. He has lived on the property for about 35 years.
Hearn said the Shirvan-Store Bay Connector Road, which came like a thief in the night, was being constructed very close to his stable and pasture – a situation he believes could potentially harm his horses.
Hearn, who suffered a mild stroke six months ago and walks with a wooden cane, claims he was never told about the project and, to date, has not received any documentation about it.
“Today (Saturday) is 13 days since they (project managers) came to me and had a talk. They talked at me and they still have not send me any papers to justify what they were doing.”
The THA, through the Division of Infrastructure, Quarries and Urban Development, launched the project on May 8 to address what it called “a present and urgent emergency hazard resulting from rising congestion in the sub-urban Shirvan and Crown Point zones.”
It said an alternative route was expected to bring easier access to the communities and support road safety, especially during peak seasons.
In a release on May 16, the division said in about 120 days the 2.5-kilometre Shirvan-Store Bay Local Road Connector will likely to be commissioned for use. The $65 million project was being undertaken by Charlieville-based company California Stucco Company Ltd.
But on Friday, High Court judge Justice Frank Seepersad granted an ex-parte injunction to the Environmental Management Authority (EMA), which complained in an emergency application that the requisite approvals have not been granted by them.
In the application, the EMA’s managing director Hayden Romano claimed the THA, either by itself or through the Division of Infrastructure, Quarries and Urban Development or its contractor, California Stucco Company Ltd, had not applied for a certificate of environmental clearance (CEC) and was in breach of the Environmental Management Act and the CEC 2001 order.
Seepersad granted the injunction, which will continue until May 31, when the matter comes up for hearing.
At a news conference on Friday, hosted by the PNM Tobago Council, THA Minority Leader Kelvon Morris predicted the matter would have ended up in court.
“I suspect this matter will end up in the court and if the EMA is doing their job, as I hope they are doing, this matter is one that will end up where there is the possibility of the THA being taken to court for a breach of the EMA Act and an injunction being ordered by the court,” he told reporters.
Arguing that the construction of the road was a “flagrant breach” of the EMA Act, Morris noted that despite the EMA’s position that there was no application or approval for a CEC, the THA continued the project in breach of the law.
He expressed serious concerns about the development.
“This is law for both Trinidad and Tobago and there are persons in the THA disregarding the law…appearing to signal that this law does not apply to them.”
Morris said the law is clear.
“Any project, any construction of any new road that exceeds one kilometre requires a certificate of environmental clearance. However, with this 2.5 kilometre road, the THA would have started it without even applying for the certificate of environmental clearance.
“And even when we point out the flaws of the THA in this matter they have decided to disregard the lawful authority which is the EMA and continued this project with impunity.”
On Saturday, Hearn welcomed the injunction but regarded it as bitter-sweet.
“I am very happy to feel semi-vindicated that I was standing up for something that was real because some people believe that it wasn’t real. But they (project managers) have mashed up my business because yesterday (Friday) my phone was ringing off the hook with all of the people that wanted to come and ride the horses and we can’t do it because it is not safe.”
The father of two added, “It is all well and good that they stopped the road but that does not really help me very much. By the time they get around to me, I could be dead and gone because they have come in and destroyed my business and they didn’t have the rights to do it or the power.”
He regarded this as frightening.
“These are the persons that are in charge of the coffers and they are spending money to damage us rather than to make this a better place for everybody. We keep forgetting the giants that we stand upon. That is real. I guess we are all now Tik Tokers.”
Hearn also said he intends to seek his own injunction to stop the project.
“I am already consulting with an attorney.”
Neither Chief Secretary Farley Augustine nor Infrastructure Secretary Trevor James could be reached for comment.