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Minister, National Trust head tell mayor: Stop destruction of historic buildings
San Fernando mayor Dr Navi Muradali will meet with National Trust chairman Vel Lewis to explain why in the past month two historic buildings in the city have been destroyed. They will also discuss government’s role in the preservation of buildings of interest.
Lewis asked for the meeting last week after the abattoir building at King’s Wharf, San Fernando, which had been earmarked for restoration, was demolished by the San Fernando City Corporation. Two weeks ago, the Coterie Building on Coffee Street, which was to be developed into a museum, was also demolished by the city.
Minister of National Diversity Clifton De Coteau has expressed disappointment, that for the second time in less than a month, a historic building was torn down in San Fernando.
“It is unfortunate, that the building which according to a Cabinet note was to be refurbished for use as a restaurant in the San Fernando Waterfront Development Project, has been destroyed. That is a contravention of the Cabinet note and we call on the mayor of San Fernando Dr Navi Muradali to cease the dismantling of historic buildings without discussing it with the relevant authorities,” De Coteau said.
Muradali said he was unaware that the building was to be restored. He said the abattoir, the Coterie and other buildings have been deemed structurally unsound by city engineering personnel and police had said buildings were being used as drug dens. As a result, Muradali said, the Corporation decided to demolish the structures.
De Coteau provided a copy of the document which showed that in 2008 the Ministry of Local Government established the Local Area and Regional Planning and Development Unit to develop the 14 regions. These plans were finalised in 2010 and were endorsed by the People’s Partnership government.
Cabinet approved $2 million for San Fernando. According to the senior regional planner at the Unit, aspects of the project to be implemented by the San Fernando City Corporation include:
• relocation of PTSC from the bus park in front of the old railway building and reconstruction of that building for use as a heritage museum
• refurbishment of the abattoir and fish market building upon the closing of the abattoir to make way for a more modern fish market and to provide an area to lease to a private developer who would outfit the building possibly as a restaurant to service new traffic from the water taxi
Lewis said the National Trust is very concerned with the dismantling of buildings of interest or monuments “at a time when we are looking at the restoration of buildings classified in our list of buildings of interest, which includes the Coterie and the abattoir”. A group of concerned San Fernando citizens, including former San Fernando West MP Dianne Seukeran, James and Mavis Lee Wah and Torrance Mohammed, have written to the mayor expressing concerns about the destruction of historic buildings.
“We, members of the civil society are calling on your council to immediately cease dismantling buildings in the city of San Fernando that are either classified as buildings of interest or historic buildings. Also included in that category are monuments or structures that can be classified as part of our build or cultural heritage,” the group stated.
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