A businessman has been waiting for more than 13 years for permission from the City’s Engineering Department to construct a modern eight-storey shopping mall at Water Street, Georgetown.
Malcolm Panday told the City Hall Commission of Inquiry (COI) Friday that for the past 13 years, the business plan has been approved by the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA) as well as the Georgetown Mayor and City Council (M&CC).
To commence construction, he needed permission from City Hall to cordon off the area for the protection of pedestrians, however, approval was never granted despite several requests.
“I could not begin construction because the M&CC’s City Engineer’s Office has for years repeatedly refused to give me the usual and necessary permission to cordon off the areas along the perimeter of the land approved for building since June 2Oth 2005,” the businessman said in a statement to the COI Chairman, Justice Cecil Kennard.
Panday contended that permission was not forthcoming because M&CC has vendors occupying the perimeter of the four sides of the property, which is known as the “Zinc Bond”.
Explaining that he has assisted the roadside vendors throughout the years, the businessman said he is not advocating for the vendors to be treated unfairly.
“I have been requesting that they be relocated to an appropriate place so that they can ply their trade,” he said, noting that in 2007, he even offered to facilitate the movement of the vendors.
“I am a friend of many Vendors. I am deeply sympathetic to their plight, and as I awaited their removal from the pavements, I permitted other vendors who did not have spots on the pavement to occupy the prime front portion of this my private property (Water Street), free of charge for almost 13 years, 2004 to 2015,” he added.
Panday further told the COI that the vendors on his land were able to make a “good living” and within that 13 years, “not having to pay rent, nor rates and taxes”, they built “good foundations”, acquiring assets like house, land and vehicles.
In 2016, the businessman man said he had the vendors removed after he found out that they were now in a better position, having shops elsewhere in the city.
Panday said he was also encouraged because at the same time, the Town Clerk, Royston King began to relocate vendors whose presence on the pavement for many years were an obstruction to the commencement of the construction of the mall.
“But lo and behold in a short while the vendors were back on the pavement and my construction plans, which were resuscitated were thwarted. And M&CC continued with their old ways,” Panday stated.
The businessman told the COI that the mall, which would cost almost $2 billion, would beautify and transform the area, as well as provide enormous rates and taxes to the “cash-strapped” M&CC.