Government has responded to criticisms over its recent announcement urging Cresslands squatters to leave the community by the end of this month.
Member of Parliament (MP) for Soufriere/Fond St Jacques Harold Dalsan said the step taken by the Ministry of Physical Development is necessary.
“It is beyond my comprehension why Saint Lucians believe that they can just move into property that doesn’t belong to them, inhabit it, modify it and believe its okay,” he argued.
Dalsan said government had removed citizens from squatting areas in the past and provided them with land titles through the PROUD programme, but staid “we can’t allow more persons to squat.”
“This is a very unfortunate situation because you have a couple of houses which formed the commencement of a bigger project, which was relocation for the people of Barons Drive. That did not come through. However, then came Tomas and exposed the vulnerabilities in the area,” Dalsan said.
The Cresslands Housing Development site was acquired by the government in 2000 and was used for the Sites and Services Component of the Shelter Development Project.
The Cresslands site was thereafter incorporated into the Barons Drive Relocation Project as a resettlement site to be developed for the residents of Barons Drive, Soufriere.
The implementation of the Barons Drive Relocation Project commenced during the 2008/09 financial year; and by October 2010, a total of fourteen (14) housing units had been completed.
The units were used to accommodate displaced households from Fond St. Jacques. The said households were subsequently resettled at Mocca, Soufriere.
However, following Hurricane Tomas in 2010, the government commissioned FDL Consult Inc. to investigate the physical and geological conditions which precipitated the damage to the Cresslands site.
The primary outcome of this investigation was that the site was unsuitable for housing development given its propensity for landslides and rock falls during extreme events.
It was also recommended that the plans for further development of the site be aborted; and that any occupation of the existing units should be preceded by the implementation of geotechnical mitigation measures. To date no such mitigation measures have been implemented.
Government said it is mandated to ensure the security and safety of its citizens; and in consideration of the potential for damage and loss of lives, the squatters have been instructed to vacate the housing units by Nov. 20, 2015.