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MP takes Govt to task on Victoria and Albert Rows

Shadow Minister of Community Affairs Michael Weeks has attacked the Government for its handling of Victoria and Albert Rows and the new housing development being erected in the area.

The former PLP government announced in 2010 that it intended to demolish Albert and Victoria Row, in Sandys, in favour of a new housing development, but the OBA reduced the scale of the project after winning the 2012 general election.

He argued that as a result of the reduction in the project's scale from 100 units to 32 units, the cost per unit at the new site has rocketed from around $300,000 to $850,000 per unit.

And while he said the OBA fiercely fought against the demolition of Victoria and Albert Row before their election, the buildings have now been condemned and their destruction is potentially back on the cards if there are no viable proposals to renovate them.

“I had put out an RFP to have the building's looked at, and to try to attempt to renovate those buildings would have cost upwards of $50 million,” Mr Weeks said. “Now, two years later, the current [Wedco] Chairman has come to the same conclusion — that those historical buildings are no longer fit for purpose and now they have to be razed to the ground.”

While he agreed that the buildings should be destroyed, he called the move by Government another retreat from their campaign promises.

He said: “I remember the banter over and over and over. ‘Don't touch the houses. Don't touch them. We are going to waste money. We don't need 100 units.'

“We couldn't compare the vacant units on the open market to the buildings that were going to be built in Dockyard. You couldn't do it then and you can't do it now because it's apples and oranges. If those units on the open market could have been filled, they would have been filled.

“After all the politics have been played, all the games have been played, guess what's going to happen? Those buildings are going to have to be knocked down. At what cost? We lost almost 70 units that were all low cost units. We lost them to save $11 million and now we are going to to knock down Albert and Victoria Rows. Ain't that something.”

PLP MP Lawrence Scott meanwhile criticised a lack of updates on Grand Atlantic, despite promises of action from Government, but Government MP Wayne Scott responded that he had made two statements in the House giving an updates on the project.

“A statement was made in this House that specified that it went out to RFP and that it was given to the primary person that would have a period of exclusivity, and that it would be reported as soon as it was done.” Mr Scott said. “That was done in this House, multiple times.”

Shadow Finance Minister David Burt however said the last statement made on the subject was made in September 2013, at which point it was said a decision would be “made shortly”.

“The public has the right to say nothing is going on,” Mr Burt said.

Finance Minister Bob Richards, however, said the Opposition were badgering the Government for having not yet fixed a problem the Opposition caused.

“We have a debt that was incurred for this on which we pay interest,” he said. “I told the Minister that either we put those things on the market at really discount prices or we try to find a solution for the whole thing. We are trying to find a solution for the whole thing.”

And he dismissed the arguments about the cost per unit of the housing units in Dockyard, saying there wasn't money to build the structures in the first place.

“What we did was save the Government millions of dollars by not going forward with the original plan,” he said.

Opposition MP Michael Weeks has taken Government to task on the future of Victoria and Albert Rows.

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Published March 17, 2014 at 9:00 am (Updated March 17, 2014 at 1:30 am)

MP takes Govt to task on Victoria and Albert Rows

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