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Shantytown deadline extended

Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes speaks with members of the media outside the Carmichael Road Police Station on Monday. TORRELL GLINTON

Residents of the shantytowns on New Providence will have a few additional days to pack up their belongings and evacuate all unregulated buildings, Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes announced on Monday.

The government has extended the deadline for shantytown residents from July 31 to August 10.

Foulkes and members of the Shantytown Action Task Force (SATF) gave out final notices to the residents of 11 shantytowns on New Providence on Monday.

“They have 28 days from today to move,” said Foulkes, who heads the taskforce.

“Notices will be given to persons, and notices will also be attached to every dwelling home in the shantytown.”

The minister explained that the extension was given on the advice of the attorney general.

“It changed because of the first notice we had to give, which required a 14-day lead period,” he said.

“The attorney general gave us advice on this just in case it goes to court, we want to make sure we’ve covered all legal grounds and there’s no possibility of what we’re doing being stopped.”

The notices, dated July 9, were specifically addressed to each shantytown.

“You are reminded that the government of The Bahamas indicated in January of 2018 that it intends to eliminate unregulated communities (shantytowns) throughout The Bahamas,” the notice read.

“An inspection of the premises located in Golden Isles Road/All Saints Way, the registry of record for building permits revealed that you have constructed several buildings without first obtaining a valid building permit.

“Under section 4 (3) of the Buildings Regulation Act, the minister responsible for building regulation, hereby serves notice requiring you, the owner, to pull down or remove the works within 28 days from the date of this notice.

“Should you fail to comply with this notice, the minister may, in accordance with section 4 (3) of the Building Regulations Act, pull down or remove the works and recover from you the expenses incurred in doing so.”

The final notices were issued two weeks after the task force advised residents to present valid building permits or occupancy certificates to the Ministry of Works.

Foulkes said only nine people had presented building permits. However, he said none of them had occupancy certificates.

Additionally, he said 10 people applied for building permits.

“All of that now is in abeyance,” Foulkes said.

“We’ve put a stop to that process, and there will be no new building permits issued for any construction for any shantytowns in New Providence.

“We are investigating the circumstances as to how those building permits were issued, because all of the land with exception to one is Crown land leased by the government to Bahamians for the purpose of farming. So, this will be the final notice.”

Foulkes also noted the Water and Sewerage Corporation, Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) and Cable Bahamas will implement a plan of action for full disconnection of services in the shantytowns.

“There’s a lot of cable and, as you go in the shantytowns, you’ll see the cable boxes,” Foulkes said.

“There is a lot of BPL connections, and you will see those also, and also Water and Sewerage. But each of the utility companies, they have a separate plan of action to do a disconnection at the appropriate time.

“We are mindful at all times that 50 percent of the residents in the shantytowns are under the age of 18.

“So, what we want to do is ensure that it is seamless in terms of the transition, especially for the children and the young people.”

The task force will also assess the types and number of animals in the shantytowns.

The Canine Unit of the Ministry of Agriculture and the Bahamas Humane Society accompanied the taskforce on Monday.

“There are a lot of animals in the shantytowns: dogs, cats, pigs, goats and chickens,” Foulkes said.

“… We intend to trap them all and house them all, and those that we can put up for adoption, we intend to do so.

“The government will make a decision on what to do with the other animals.”

Foulkes said he has been advised that up to 70 percent of shantytown residents have moved out.

He added that the government does not anticipate that there will be resistance from anyone in the shantytowns to move out.

Several of the residents who remain in the shantytowns said they have nowhere to go.

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