CASTRIES, St Lucia – The Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) stands in solidarity with the thousands of Saint Lucians at home and abroad who have expressed concern and outrage over the location, scale and nature of a development ongoing at the southern tip of the Pitons Management Area World Heritage Site at Anse L’Ivrogne.
“The Party is appalled, though not surprised, by the attempt of the United Workers Party (UWP) government, through a statement by the minister of physical planning Herod Stanislas, to mask its questionable role in the approval of this development,” the SLP said in a press release Wednesday.
Pitons management area
Under the Dr Kenny Anthony administration, the Pitons Management Area was declared an Environmental Protection Area under the Physical Planning Act; and in June 2004, it was declared by a World Heritage Site (No. 1161) by the United Nations Educational Scientific & Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).
Sadly, this latest development controversy at Anse L’Ivrogne Estate falls within what is known as Policy Area One of the Pitons Management Area (PMA), as identified within the Limits of Acceptable Change (LAC) Study of December 2013, as an area of “Essentially no development.”
Limits of acceptable change
The LAC Study was commissioned by the Dr Anthony administration in keeping with the requirements of the World Heritage Committee to determine where, how and to what scale development could occur within the PMA. The LAC included a detailed design guide to which developments were to conform including, inter alia, provisions to guide density, maximum buildable slopes, maximum building footprints, building height restrictions, colours of roofs and walls, guidance on materials to minimize visual impact, visibility assessments, and the requirement for environmental impact statements. The LAC was endorsed by Cabinet Conclusion 527 of 2013.
The specific parcel of land within which the development is being undertaken has portions within as well as outside the PMA World Heritage Site. As such, the Development Control Authority (DCA) was duty-bound to follow the law and the requirements as set out by the Limits of Acceptable Change Study for the portions within the PMA.
The Limits of Acceptable Change Study outlines the following for Anse L’Ivrogne:
“Development Policy PA1 (C): Small scale development in the L’Ivrogne River Valley, set back from the beach, will be considered if it meets the full Limits of Acceptable Change and Design Guide for the PMA World Heritage Site. Such development would be restricted to local needs and/or for conservation purposes. It could, for example, be a scheme that provides opportunities for local employment, for accommodation (but only for local people), and/or for historic feature conservation. Such development would allow for the replacement of the existing ad hoc beach facilities with sustainably managed low-key beach facilities set back from the beach, all in accordance with the Design Guide. Unlike the majority of the Policy Area 1 this site has potential because it is not easily visible.” [pg. 71, LAC, 2013]
What has now become of concern is whether the DCA undertook the due processes under the Physical Planning Act to ensure that the current development meets the requirements of Limits of Acceptable Change.
Usual UWP attempt at ‘Let’s blame Kenny’
In typical fashion, the UWP has attempted to cast blame on former prime minister Dr Anthony by trying to suggest he approved the development within the PMA. Instead of dealing with the substantive matters related to physical development, the minister for physical planning, Herod Stanislas, has sought to shift blame by wrongly suggesting that “approved developer” under the Special Development Areas Act somehow bound the State or the DCA.
This is the furthest thing from the truth. In fact, the Special Development Area Act clearly states in Section 5:
“An approved developer shall comply with any law in force in respect of land development.”
Put very simply, an “approved developer” under the Special Development Areas Act does not make you an approved developer under the Physical Development Act. The developer would still have to apply as per normal to the Development Control Authority.
Minister Stanislas has failed to provide full disclosure as to what has transpired regarding the development at Anse L’Ivrogne. He should, therefore, answer the following questions:
- Is it true that the Cabinet of ministers directed that approval be granted for the development?
- Is it true that the plans for the villa currently under construction were approved for unilaterally by the chairman of the Development Control Authority in 2018?
- Is it true that this unilaterally approved application was never considered by the Pitons Management Area Advisory Committee (PMAAC), nor the DCA Board, as required by law?
- Is it true, therefore, that the PMAAC never saw or considered the plans for the villa under construction?
- Is it true that the recommended maximum building footprint for residential buildings as set out within the Limits of Acceptable Change is 2,000 square feet, and if so, then why was a building of 2,846 square feet, as stated by minister Stanislas, approved?
- Is it true that an Environmental Impact Statement was never requested of the developer by the Development Control Authority as per the Limits of Acceptable Change Study?
- Is it true ministers Guy Joseph and Herod Stanislas asked to personally meet the developer and that there was a meeting held at the finance administration centre at the office of minister Joseph, along with the minister for physical development and the chair of the Development Control Authority, with the developer’s spouse, and that the legal representative of the developer was asked not to attend?
- Is it also true that there is another development application currently pending for a much larger villa on the same property and within the same Policy Area 1(C)?
In addition to providing truthful and full disclosure regarding the development, this matter needs immediate attention, not the usual public relations stunts of the UWP government.
The Saint Lucia Labour Party calls on the government to take immediate action to prevent the endangerment of the PMA’s World Heritage status. An immediate “Stop Notice” should be issued and all the relevant information should be provided to the PMAAC. The government should dispense with the secrecy and engage the people of Saint Lucia on what they would deem as an acceptable solution given this offensive blunder.
Long litany of heritage destruction
The Saint Lucia Labour Party again urges this Allen Chastanet administration to be more responsible with the development of our country. Sadly, this has been yet another in a litany of sins where the government has shown scant regard for the island’s heritage:
- Desert Star Holdings (DSH) and its risks to the mangrove, a proposed causeway to Maria Islands, and the giving away of nearly 1,000 acres of land in Vieux Fort;
- Cabot Golf Resort was approved to construct a golf course without the consideration of an Environmental Impact Assessment, inclusive of a $30 million National Insurance Corporation (NIC) loan, 75-year lease of Queen’s Chain, and the jeopardising of local livelihoods and an Amerindian archaeological site at Cas-en-Bas;
- The demolition of the Royal Gaol, the oldest building in the city of Castries, even after providing a Legal Undertaking to the Saint Lucia National Trust;
- The closure of Radio Saint Lucia, the guardian of our audio records;
- The complete defunding of the Saint Lucia National Trust and it’s heritage projects at Pigeon Island and Walcott Place to the tune of $10 million over the past four years;
- Scant support provided to the Folk Research Centre more than two and a half years on from the destruction of its headquarters by fire in 2018; and
- The closure of the Soufriere Marine Management Area Office, which was responsible for marine protection in the Soufriere area, the constituency of Herod Stanislaus.
And while it may be one of many infractions, building on the Pitons, the national icons of Saint Lucia, may well be the straw the has broken the broad back of our people’s long-suffering. It is time to do right by the people’s patrimony.
Acquiring in the public good
The Saint Lucia Labour Party also notes that the government has engaged in the compulsory acquisition of land worth tens of millions of dollars related to DSH, but also at Choc and Mount Pimard.
It also notes the decision of the government to protect the curtilage of the Mount Sion windmill when a local was constructing his house nearby. Perhaps, therefore, it is time for the government to commit to some worthy acquisition in the national interest.
Putting People First
The Saint Lucia Labour Party stands ready to put Saint Lucians first and stands ready to put our national heritage of our people first:
- We commit to providing a secure, pristine, beautiful PMA World Heritage Site and building on all our work in the past.
- We commit to creating a National Heritage Conservation Fund to tackle the challenges of land ownership, management, and sustainable development in areas like the PMA and other protected areas.
- We commit to achieving a transparent, accountable, responsible, and efficient Physical Planning System, including a National Physical Plan to reduce land conflicts in the future, and not one that is driven by political interference.
- We commit to the sustainable development of our country that does not jeopardise the inheritance of our children.