Criminal charges recommended for hotel projectWednesday, June 09, 2021
BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS
The Integrity Commission has recommended that criminal charges be pursued in relation to the circumstances surrounding the granting and issuance of permits for the construction, renovation and operation of Blue Diamond Hotel Group's Royalton Negril resort.
In a special investigation report tabled in the House of Representatives yesterday, the commission said fines and imprisonment orders should be pursued in relation to breaches and non-compliance with the terms of the permits, which went against environmental and town and planning laws.
On May 9, 2016, four months after the Hanover Municipal Corporation wrote to the manager for the Royalton construction site advising that modifications being done to the building had not been approved, a section of the site collapsed, injuring five workers.
The municipal corporation issued a 30-day stop order on the project in October 2015, but was unable to confirm whether construction continued during the period, according to the commission.
On May 13, 2016, the then Office of the Contractor General (OCG) — now subsumed into the Integrity Commission — launched a probe into the circumstances in relation to the permits and licences issued for the works at the former Grand Lido property.
“Construction-related activities continued notwithstanding a cessation order which was issued by NEPA [National Environment and Planning Agency] to the developers of Royalton Negril Resort, on October 23, 2015, to cease all construction as at October 26, 2015, with the result that a site warning was issued on October 28, 2015. Notwithstanding the breaches which were identified, the DI [director of investigation] observed that the breaches were remedied, resulting in the continuation and conclusion of construction,” the report outlined.
The commission said the relevant building, planning and environmental permits required were issued by all the respective authorities — Hanover Parish Council, NEPA, and the Town and Country Planning Authority after consultation with the Negril and Green Island Area Local Planning Authority (NGIALP).
In January 2016 the then Hanover Parish Council said it had grave concerns after visiting the site, including that the approved building plans and permit had not, up to that point, been collected from the council.
The council also said the architectural designs of the buildings had not been altered, but the structural designs had been modified, and that there was no written communication to the superintendent of roads and works pertaining to the date when the developers intended to commence work.
“This is a glaring breach of the required procedures which will not be tolerated,” it warned.
The Integrity Commission said no fines or penalties were imposed for breaches of the Parish Council Building Act.
At the same time, NEPA granted the developers an environmental permit in May 2016, shortly after the collapse. This was despite a recommendation from the NGIALP to refuse the May 12, 2016 application by the developers for the proposed retention of a 573-bedroom hotel.
The investigation sought to determine whether there had been any irregularity in the grant and issue of permits for the construction and renovation at the Royalton Negril resort; the level of compliance with the conditions of permits issued; and the level of compliance with the provisions of the Contractor General's Act, the Town and Country Planning Act, the Town and Country Planning (Negril and Green Island Area), the Natural Resources Conservation Authority (NRCA) Act and NRCA Regulations, the Parish Council's Building Act (Hanover), and other relevant laws.
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