Prime Minister Allen Chastanet has re-assured that all the independent environmental studies cleared the way for the Development Control Authority (DCA) to grant permission to Sandals for the construction of a 10-floor building as part of its 370-suite La Source development at Pigeon Island.
The Prime Minister was addressing the Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, making the point that Saint Lucia must adapt to the demands of an increasingly competitive tourism industry, knowing that it has limited resources to do so.
Drawing reference to the legal dispute between The Landings and Sandals — which has put the US $210 million dollar project on hold — the Prime Minister said Government was “very satisfied” with the process that was used to grant approval for the development, assuring that “a proper” Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was conducted.
He added that while the developer bears the cost of the EIA study, the person who is hired to do so reports to the DCA.
“It is an important point to note, because the professional person that’s hired is not under any obligation to do an EIA that in any way supports the development.
“The EIA is done independently and looks at the laws of Saint Lucia and creates the engagement.
“The decision by the Government to allow a 10-story building is one that was based on the evidence put before us.”
Referring to an old convention which The Landings had raised about buildings ‘not being taller than a coconut tree’, the Prime Minister said the country must be honest with itself that Saint Lucia, including The Landings itself, had moved past such a policy a long time ago.
“We have to recognise that beach land is very expensive and limited in Saint Lucia and therefore if we want to maximize the economic output, the reality is that we are going to have to go up in height. The Landings itself is already at five storeys and Harbour Club is at seven floors, so we already seeing that we are moving up in that perspective.”
Making it clear that the role of Government was to facilitate and support all developers equally, the Prime Minister reminded that the government of the day had supported The Landings when it wanted to developing a marina, effectively cutting the beach and impacting access by the public.
“Government was asked to make a very tough decision, because building the Marina meant that we would have to cut the beach — and in cutting the beach, you would deny Saint Lucians the thoroughfare along that beach area.
“The government of the day made a very pragmatic decision that, when you weighed-up the costs benefits and you look at some of the things the property could have done to facilitate people crossing, it was an initiative they supported.”
Despite the hold-up, the Prime Minister expressed confidence in the ability of the courts to treat with the issue, expressing the hope that the country will be able to get a clear decision very soon.