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Gov't abadons $15 m land deal

Government has abandoned the purchase of a large parcel of land once earmarked for the Transport Board’s headquarters.

Twenty-two years after Parliament approved the compulsory acquisition of the 15.7 aces at Kendal Hill, Christ Church from Kingsland Estates Limited, Minister of Housing and Lands Michael Lashley said the deal, which if pursued would now cost more than $15 million to complete, was no more. But spokesmen on the Opposition benches criticised the minister in the way the matter was handled, saying it left Government open to having to compensate the land owner.

Lashley, who led debate on the resolution which was approved by Parliamentarians this afternoon, denied such was the case, however, saying a prominent lawyer representing Kingsland had agreed to waive all rights to compensation.

The minister said the land was acquired on December 24, 1990 by a previous Democratic Labour Party administration when it decided to change its plans to construct the Transport Board’s headquarters at Haggatt Hall, St. Michael.

Lashley noted that Kingsland Estates had never received a cent for its property.

“The Crown offered $126,000 during the 1990s to the owners. The Commission of Land Tax was subsequently requested to provide an open market valuation, which was submitted by memorandum dated July, 15 2004 and the valuation for the land was then estimated at $6.8 million,” he noted.

Lashley said while there had been “some interest” to construct other government facilities on the land, including a School Meals Centre, relocation of the Central Purchasing Department, 107 lots provided by the National Housing Corporation, construction of a new school, and a theatre built by the Chinese, Government decided not to proceed with the land deal. This was after the Ministries of Education and Culture as well as the

Transport Board indicated they were no longer interested. “In the circumstances, Mr. Speaker, the Ministry of Housing and Lands is desirous of abandoning this acquisition … When we looked at what the Crown would have to pay in terms of compensation the $6.8 million, interest at six per cent per year and when we totaled it, Mr. Speaker the total payment due to its former owners would therefore be at about $15 million for this piece of property,” he explained.

Two former Ministers of Housing in the former Barbados Labour Party administration, St. George North MP, Gline Clarke, and his colleague George Payne, who represents St. Andrew in the House of Assembly, suggested Government could still be faced with a financial challenge despite the purchase abandonment.

The minister responded that there were several meetings with the landowner and their legal representative, “a leading Queens Counsel in Barbados”, and said his ministry “have on record” the attorney agreeing to waive all his clients rights to any compensation, interest and costs under the Land Acquisition Act. (SC)

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