The Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) candidate for St Lucy Peter Phillips has joined the chorus of criticism of Government’s announced proposal to construct an airport in the northernmost parish.
Residents of the parish have ridiculed the suggestion by Minister of Tourism and International Transport Richard Sealy, arguing that there were more pressing needs in the constituency.
Sealy announced in Parliament on Tuesday that “serious approaches” had been made by at least two interests – one local and the other international – regarding the construction of an airport in the north of the island and that St Lucy had been identified as an ideal location.
Thursday, Phillips dismissed this as mere words and nothing more, saying it was part of the governing Democratic Labour Party’s rhetoric as it campaigns for the next general election.
“To even suggest an airport at this time when the country has gone through such economic stress, that we should have an airport in St Lucy, which is not necessary, which is not priority, is not just nonsense. But [this is] the beginning of the silly season,” Phillips told Barbados TODAY.
“They are playing to the emotions of people, making people believe that something will happen, giving people the feel good situation. But what they did not factor in is the feedback that would come from the residents. They felt that that ploy would enthuse residents about finally having something in St Lucy, but while St Lucy is in need of development we are not looking for development at any cost. Not when they are many pressing issues within St Lucy.”
The Opposition politician said constituents had been there before, making reference to the Pickering Housing and Town Centre Development project for which ground was broken by then Prime Minister David Thompson in 2010.
The people of St Lucy were promised at the time that the project would generate US$800 million in revenue, of which US$500 million would come from sales to non-residents; create 600 jobs at the peak of construction; provide sustainable employment opportunities for 300 persons and stimulate the socio-economic development of the entire northern section of Barbados.
“Remember the headlines back in 2010; the commitment that was given in June 2010 regarding the Pickering project, with headlines such as Boom Town. We were promised back then hotel, private school, auditorium, amphitheatre, 1100 houses and all these grand things in 2010 when the late David Thompson, the then Prime Minister, got up off his dying bed and came to St Lucy, not to turn the soil but to plant a palm tree to signal the start of that project. Six years later and nothing has happened,” Phillips said.
In any event, the BLP candidate charged, Government has put little thought into the airport proposal, backing up the allegation by pointing to the level of discolation construction of the facility was likely to cause.
“When we are thinking about an airport in St.Lucy we can’t just think about constructing an airport, but relocation of residents. And the land quoting is right smack in communities – the Hope Road community, the community coming from Greenidges and coming over Crab Hill. You have to understand the amount of dislocation that would mean,” he said.
While most residents with whom Barbados TODAY spoke yesterday opposed construction of the facility in their parish, one, David Boyce of The Crick Cove Bay, said an airport was long overdue and, in any event, it would be the perfect remedy for the poor roads in the parish.
“As soon as the airport is constructed up here, the roads will be fixed soon after. Just think about it,” he assured.
However, Phillips fired back today by making it clear that residents were deserving of good roads “with or without an airport”.
“The people of St Lucy pay taxes just like everybody else and so they’re deserving of all the other amenities, be it good roads, social services, health care or anything of the sort,” Phillips stressed.