The Government’s problem-plagued $250 million Cane Industry Restructuring Project (CIRP) for Andrews in St Joseph is facing a legal challenge that could bring the venture to a painful end.
Company executive of Andrews Great House Emile Peter Elias has filed the application in the Supreme Court Registry for an injunction to stop the construction of a state-of-the-art, multi-purpose facility, which was trumpeted as the saviour of the struggling sugar industry.
The suit filed on February 18, 2016 names Chief Town Planner Mark Cummins and Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite as first and second respondents and is scheduled to be heard next week Thursday morning.
It claims that demolition of the old Andrews Sugar Factory to make way for construction of the new plant has already started without planning permission, and even more importantly, without completion of an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) as required by law.
In his affidavit, a copy of which was obtained by Barbados TODAY, Elias expresses grave concern about the environmental impact and damage to his health and his property which is situated next to the existing Andrews factory site. He noted that the new factory would include a 25 megawatt wood burning power plant, huge storage warehouses, packing plant, as well as other major infrastructural and industrial operations on the lands of the current factory and neighbouring lands to be acquired.
In seeking to press his case for an ESIA to be conducted and the results shared with the public, Elias will tell the court that “the Andrews Project will fundamentally affect my property as well as the property of residents in neighbouring areas, in respect of inter alia, the increased traffic, under water supply, air quality and health and wellbeing of residents”.
He also referred to a letter, a copy of which has also been obtained by Barbados TODAY, in which the Chief Town Planner replied to him and indicated that “given the nature of the project an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment is required”. The Town Planner’s correspondence dated April 2, 2015 and signed by Majorie Stuart-Griffith also stated that those responsible for the project were required to conduct a public meeting where the result of the study would be made available to the public for perusal, scrutiny and comment.
“The final draft of the EIA report shall be made available to the public for a period of not less than 28 days at a convenient site within the community or in close proximity,” added the Chief Town Planner’s letter.
Elias has also submitted to the court, the Town Planner’s letter which said that an application had been made for other lands at Andrews Plantation to be added to adjoining lands for industrial purposes.
But Elias’ affidavit has made the point that the specifications were not of the same nature of the Andrews Project.
He also pointed out that to this day, no town hall meeting has been held, only an informal one on August 15, 2013 by the Barbados Cane Industry Corporation (BCIC) at which he was present. Elias, who owns 8,094 square metres of land at Andrews Plantation, is contending that none of these requirements were met.
He is therefore seeking wide-ranging relief from the court that includes an interim and permanent injunction compelling the Chief Town Planner to issue an enforcement notice suspending and restraining any development to the lands at the existing Andrews Factory site and all surrounding properties
and prohibiting construction or demolition or any other works.
He is also urging the court to issue an order that the Chief Town Planner must require any applicant to get permission to develop the lands, and, in any case, that an environment impact assessment must first be prepared and submitted even prior to such permission.
The High Court is also being asked to declare that any decision of the Chief Town Planner to permit development of the Andrews Project shall be ultra vires and invalidated by the acts and omissions of the same Government official.
Among the 12 grounds he outlined in his claim form are that the island’s top planner exceeded his jurisdiction, abused his power, carried out an administrative act or omission in a way unauthorized, or contrary to law, acted on instructions from an unauthorized person and breached the principles of natural justice.
Elias is urging the court, if necessary, to make an order that any recent permission granted by the Chief Town Planner to develop the Andrews Project or any other relevant application, should go before the judge so it could be quashed.
He complained, too, that he had not seen or was given a full opportunity to make submissions on any application for permission to develop the project, whilst it was his “legitimate expectation” that certain procedures would have been completed prior to the granting of permission.
Elias referred to a petition dated 16 June, 2015, signed by over 65 persons – some of whom are residents within a two mile radius of the site. That petition was addressed to the Chief Town Planner and Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, who is responsible for that department.
In it, the residents objected to the project being built in their community. However, Elias said the petitioners’ complaint was disregarded.
Government announced in February last year that it had signed an agreement with Inter-Sugar Partnership Limited (ISP), the Caribbean-based advisor of international private/public partnership (PPP) projects, to proceed with the cane industry restructuring project.
The project was to include the construction of a state-of-the-art multi-purpose facility, providing employment of over 300 workers and generation of 25 megawatts (MW) of green electricity annually and the further potential use of 60MW of waste heat from electricity generation, making the plant self-sufficient,
and generating an additional 22MW for Barbados households and businesses.
Construction was due to begin last year, with completion in time for the 2017 crop.