Cahill project is science fiction, says St Hill
Government’s agreement with Cahill Energy to build a waste-to-energy plant may come to naught, according to retired Chief Town Planner Leonard St Hill, who contends the proposed project has no legal standing.
St Hill brought home this sobering point to an agitated group of Barbadians assembled in the auditorium of the Lester Vaughan Secondary School last night. They were there to hear presentations and partake in discussions on the dangers posed to people and the landscape if the controversial project goes ahead.
“What is striking about a proposal which has reached an agreement stage is that it has no footing in law,” St Hill said of the project for which Government has already signed a memorandum of understanding with the proposed builders, owners and operators.
St Hill, along with visiting American scientist-turned environmental activist Professor Paul Connett, and alternative energy campaigner Mark Hill, comprised a panel that initiated the discussions.
The former chief town planer and civil engineer said there was a number of steps ending with parliamentary approval that were legally required before the project could get lawful consideration, but none had been taken so far.
“Without that, all this talk about waste to energy plant at Vaucluse, is science fiction,” he said.
“This discussion therefore, educational as it is, presents us with an opportunity to be aware of the facts, and those facts which may be presented at the public enquiry when objections and representations may be made.”
St Hill spoke of the Town and Country Planning Act which requires approved development plans for use of all areas of the island. He said following a number of steps involving the office of the Chief Town Planner and an advisory committee, then public discussions, there must be approval by resolution in both houses of Parliament before the project gets the go-ahead.
“The proposal for this waste-to-energy plant constitutes a proposal for the amendment of the development plan, which has a specific process,” St Hill said. “An application has to be made, and because the application involves more than two acres of the conversion of land allocated for agricultural use, this proposal has to be referred to the minister responsible for Town and Country Planning, advised by an Advisory Committee of not less than nine consultants in specialised areas for roads, buildings and other structures, community planning, amenities, public utilities, sports and communications.”
St Hill said the application had to be processed by the Town and Country Planning Advisory Committee as the designated authority appointed by the minister for the purpose. He pointed out: “That committee, at this date, or just before this date, did not exist for three years.”
After outlining the entire required process –– none of which he said has been followed –– St Hill concluded: “We’ve reached the stage, therefore, where all this talk about waste-to-energy proposal, or plan, cannot begin until the proposal has been presented as an application for an amendment of the Development Plan, the Town and Country Advisory Committee has examined the proposal against the background of the criteria through amendment, a public enquiry has been instituted and, at that public enquiry, the kind of discussion that we are having here would take place.”
He continued: “The report of the public enquiry is then tabled in the House of Assembly and the amendment of the Development Plan, which is that proposal for the waste-to-energy plant, would then be decided by resolution of both houses of Parliament, the Assembly and the Senate, on the basis of the enquiry conducted, appointed by the minister according to law.”