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Hotel project handling comes under attack

Keep an open mind: Kenny Bascome(Photograph by Akil Simmons)

The handling of the St George’s Hotel project came under fire during a town-hall meeting at Penno’s Wharf on Thursday night.

While the attendees of the meeting expressed support in principle to a hotel on the former Club Med site, many expressed concerns about the lack of consultation in advance of the signing of the master development agreement and passing of the legislation.

Of particular concern was the question of access to Gates Bay, also known as Fort St Catherine’s Beach.

Francis Richardson, the permanent secretary for the Ministry of Tourism Development and Transport, told the crowd that the 122-room hotel would take around 30 to 36 months to complete, with work expected to begin as soon as the second quarter of 2016.

He also said the hotel would be built “down the hill”, closer to the beach than the former Club Med hotel, but that contracts required that the public have “reasonable access” to the beach.

Progressive Labour Party MP Lovitta Foggo, however, questioned what the definition of “reasonable access” was, and what it would mean for members of the public. Meanwhile, former St George’s MP Kim Swan questioned why contracts have been signed before plans for the project had been revealed.

“We need to see what a model would look like,” Mr Swan said.

“What’s taking place right now in St George’s is signing a blank cheque.”

St George’s MP Kenneth Bascome, however, urged the crowd to keep an open mind until they could speak with the developer and hear what he has to say about the project.

“I believe that the developer should be here,” he said. “That’s my personal opinion.

“That way they can answer the questions in a more informative manner.”

He said he had spoken to St George’s mayor Quinell Francis and suggested that she invite the developer to speak.

However, Ms Francis reiterated that the St George’s Hotel Act was passed before the Corporation and the residents of St George’s were consulted and the beach remains an area of concern.

“If we want to go to Gates Bay, where will we park?

“Because we will be entering a hotel development,” she said.

“You and our other representatives who passed this legislation didn’t consult with your constituents to see how we felt about this development, particularly in reference to this site plan.

“We can’t ask them about reasonable access to the beach which parliamentarians have already passed.”

Asked how the hotel would affect plans to update the town’s septic system, Mr Richardson said the subject had been broached with the developer.

While he said the developer was not willing to foot the bill entirely, he is willing to work with the corporation and government.