Court halts troubled sugar project in St Joseph
Government’s multi-million dollar Cane Industry Restructuring Project has ground to a dramatic halt – at least for the time being.
The High Court today ordered the Freundel Stuart administration to shut down its US$250 million Andrews project in St Joseph with immediate effect.
At the end of a 25-minute hearing this afternoon, Madame Justice Pamela Beckles upheld an application brought by Andrews Great House owner Emile Peter Elias for an interim injunction to stop any further work at the Andrews Factory site or the development of any lands related to the venture. Chief Town Planner Mark Cummins was named as first respondent and Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite second respondent.
The court also granted a second interim injunction prohibiting Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, in his capacity as Minister responsible for Town Planning, and the Chief Town Planner from granting permission for any related work to be undertaken at, or around the site.
Both injunctions will remain in place until April 27 when the parties are due to return to court for further consideration of this case.
“We served the documents on the Attorney General and the Chief Town Planner on March 1. We didn’t receive anything from them, but they were represented by [Deputy Solicitor General] Donna Brathwaite, who came in today on behalf of Shannah Codrington.
“Because they were so late, they were not obviously fully instructed as how to deal with the situation, but we were able to agree to certain things in the form of interim injunctions,” Elias’ attorney Ebrahim Lakhi told Barbados TODAY.
Lahki, from the law firm of Steve Walcott and Company, in association with Alair Shepherd, said when the case resumes on April 27, he planned to seek an extension of the injunction or apply for new ones.
“We got two forms of injunctive relief. One is that, until 27 April, 2016, when the court next hears this matter, the minister responsible for Town & Country Planning and the first respondent [Chief Town Planner] forthwith cease and desist from granting any planning permissions or outline permissions in respect of the Andrews project, subject to these proceedings,” the lawyer said.
“And the second thing, until 27 April, 2016, when the court next hears this matter, the respondents shall desist from further work on the Andrews project, which is the subject of these proceedings,” he added.
Lahki told Barbados TODAY that the two injunctions were a summary of the relief sought by his client because the parties could not reach “definitive agreement as to these things because Donna Brathwaite wasn’t fully instructed”.
He said he anticipated that when the two sides return to court, the lawyers for the State would resist any further injunctions and fight the application altogether.
The troubled project was to include the construction of a state-of-the-art multi-purpose facility, providing employment of over 300 workers and generation of 25 megawatts (MW) of green electricity annually and the further potential use of 60MW of waste heat from electricity generation, making the plant self-sufficient, and generating an additional 22MW for Barbados households and businesses.
It was also proposed to produce special sugars and increased amounts of molasses for the island’s export-revenue earning rum industry. Construction was due to begin last year, with completion in time for the 2017 crop.
Elias claims in his application that demolition of the old Andrews sugar factory to make way for construction of the new plant had already begun without planning permission, and even more importantly, without completion of an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) as required by law.
In his affidavit, a copy of which was obtained by Barbados TODAY, Elias expressed grave concern about the environmental impact and damage to his health and his property which is situated next to the existing Andrews factory site.
He observed that the new factory would include a 25 megawatt wood burning power plant, huge storage warehouses, packing plant, as well as other major infrastructural and industrial operations on the lands of the current factory and neighbouring lands to be acquired.
In seeking to press his case for an ESIA to be conducted and the results shared with the public, Elias will tell the court that “the Andrews project will fundamentally affect my property as well as the property of residents in neighbouring areas, in respect of inter alia, the increased traffic, under water supply, air quality and health and wellbeing of residents”.
He also referred to a letter, a copy of which has also been obtained by Barbados TODAY, in which the Chief Town Planner replied to him and indicated that “given the nature of the project an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment is required”. The Town Planner’s correspondence dated April 2, 2015 and signed by Majorie Stuart-Griffith also stated that those responsible for the project were required to conduct a public meeting where the result of the study would be made available to the public for perusal, scrutiny and comment.
“The final draft of the EIA report shall be made available to the public for a period of not less than 28 days at a convenient site within the community or in close proximity,” added the Chief Town Planner’s letter.
Elias has also submitted to the court, the Town Planner’s letter which said that an application had been made for other lands at Andrews Plantation to be added to adjoining lands for industrial purposes.
But Elias’ affidavit has made the point that the specifications were not of the same nature of the Andrews Project.