Prime Minister Browne addresses demolition of ital shop in Parham

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The scene in Parham where the Ital Shack was located following a Facebook Live showcasing the demolition by the Development Control Authority the day prior on Friday. (Photos by Gemma Handy)
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By Makeida Antonio

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In a Facebook Live shared by over 500 people and viewed by thousands more, three of the four young men who claimed to own an ital shop in Parham, lamented the destruction of their property by the Development Control Authority (DCA) on Friday.

Since then, Prime Minister Gaston Browne has become aware of the situation and said that DCA had been in constant dialogue with the owners. He said from all accounts, the shop operators the did not adhere to the rules outlined by DCA.

“What I know for sure, I have seen documentation and information to the effect that DCA has been in constant dialogue with these individuals. They would have warned them about expanding the facility, they were given a temporary approval to have a ten-by-ten facility, I’m told they went and put down a permanent structure and continued to expand, and I have to tell you, certain reports were made about them,” Prime Minister Browne told Observer yesterday.

Malcolm Reid, the main operator of the ital shop told Observer that he and a group of friends started working on the building to house the small business in December 2020, before receiving a stop-order from the DCA in January 2021, for building without permission.

He also said that he contacted the DCA afterward and went through all the necessary processes to get approval to restart construction work – and that approval was granted in March 2021. Reid added that the building authority gave them permission to operate the business – utilising the land and the structure – for one year, until March 9, 2022.

Reid said that things appeared to be normal due to constant communication with the DCA in the months following, until he received a notice from the body last Monday. The notice said that the young men would need to vacate the property, however, he believed he would still be allowed to operate until the March 9, 2022 deadline as talks with DCA continued.

Reid admitted that he had been getting some noise complaints from a neighbour, but said it was just laughter between friends and a bit of music – nothing that he would consider to be overly disturbing and nothing that he believes should cause his approval to be revoked.

On the other hand, Prime Minister Browne said the shop operators had several opportunities to take heed from DCA before all of their property was destroyed.

“This matter was not brought to our attention. DCA, based on the discussions that we would have had with these individuals, based on certain written warnings and certain instructions that were given, they took it in their own judgement that there was a need to demolish this structure. It was ill-suited based on certain activities that were taking place,” according to the Prime Minister

Despite the unfortunate circumstances, Reid assured concerned residents that he is not bitter about the situation, saying that he understands how the system can be unfair to some people, but maintained that he is expecting to be reimbursed by those responsible.

Meanwhile Prime Minister Browne indicated there is a possibility that some assistance could in fact be given to the young businessmen. “I am not going to commit the Cabinet here; I don’t know that these individuals were right with what we did, but yes, as you say they are trying to make a living. Maybe a few of us can come together and maybe give a donation to help them rebuild, but, I want to make a point here though with individuals who believe that they can squat indiscriminately throughout the country – you don’t have any such right, and you need to cooperate when DCA gives you a warning.”

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