City not yet notified of CH&PA plan to relocate squatters to Cummings Lodge

Georgetown’s Town Clerk Royston King yesterday said that the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA) is yet to inform the Mayor and City Council (M&CC) of its plan to develop a portion of land located behind Cummings Lodge to relocate squatters.

The identified land is also a part of  Georgetown.

King told Stabroek News that the M&CC has not received any correspondence from the housing agency to develop the area. “We anticipate that once the plans are finalised the Central Housing and Planning Authority would engage us and we would be duly notified,” King stated.

Lyndon Hilliman, constituency councillor of Constituency Six (Cummings Lodge North, Central & South, Pattensen/Turkeyen South), also said that he has not received an official notification from the CH&PA about its plan but noted that he is aware of the project. “The proposed area has been earmarked for some time but I have not heard anything from the CH&PA as to when they might start works there,” he said.

The land identified was earmarked to relocate squatters from Sophia and is located behind Cummings Lodge. However, on Tuesday Chief Executive Officer of the CH&PA Lelon Saul announced that squatters from Lombard and Broad streets, Charlestown, would also be relocated to the area since the land identified at Plantation Prosperity, on the East Bank of Demerara is unsuitable for occupation because it is prone to flooding.

A wide shot of the portion of land behind Cummings Lodge earmarked to relocate squatters from Sophia and Lombard and Broad streets.

Saul on Wednesday told Stabroek News that Plantation Prosperity, which is behind Mocha Arcadia, has no proper drainage networks and the area is subject to flooding.

Saul had told reporters during a field visit on Tuesday that the land had only been cleared in preparation for the relocation. He, however, related that the soil test found that there is pegasse, which is unsuitable for construction.

Questioned about how the CH&PA could be sure the newly identified land is suitable for construction, as that was not determined until the land at Mocha was cleared, Saul related that they are in possession of a geo-technical report for the new location. Further, he stated that once infrastructural work is done within the area, the location will be suitable for development.

He also noted that unlike Mocha, there is already an established drainage network, reducing the flood risk.

When this newspaper visited the site, it found the area filled with vegetation. However, Saul said that the CH&PA is looking to have the land cleared by July to begin distributing house lots to squatters.

Saul had said on Tuesday that the agency was looking to have the relocation of Lombard Street residents taking place sometime in October.

In the past year, the Mocha Arcadia Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC) and the CH&PA were at loggerheads following the announcement of the relocation of residents from Lombard and Broad streets to Plantation Prosperity.

The NDC had strongly objected to residents being relocated to their community, while expressing concern at outsiders being given the opportunity to occupy lands over residents as well as security fears. The NDC had suggested that the CH&PA move the squatters to different communities. However, by last November they had reached a compromise and work had started on land preparation.

Initially, it was announced that 49 families would be relocated to Plantation Prosperity. It was also reported that some $43 million was to be spent for the construction of 72 homes, while $30 million was to be spent on infrastructure development. Food for the Poor was also expected to inject $43 million into the development project.

Last year the CH&PA has also begun to demolish structures illegally erected by squatters in Sophia. But after strong protests by residents, the demolition works were discontinued. The CH&PA, however, erected signs informing residents that squatting is illegal.

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