A probe revealed that APUA did not err in providing utility services to two dwelling houses in Yorks, since the applications had the requisite stamp of approval from the Development Control Authority (DCA).
The vexing issue took centre stage two weeks ago when Member of Parliament for the area John Maginley, pressed by his constituents to take action, lambasted APUA for their inaction.
Maginley was a guest on Voice of the People at the time. He said the squatters were on government land and that several appeals to APUA for the disconnection of the services were unsuccessful.
But DCA Chairman Leon “Chaku” Symister told OBSERVER that the check by APUA, which is represented on DCA, found that only two of the illegal dwellings have services and in addition to being legitimately granted, the squatters are on private lands.
“From APUA’s perspective, the service was legitimately given. The second issue is that it is on private lands whereas on government land the government could come in and say: ‘these squatters have no right to be there, therefore we want them off, you’re facilitating them, cut them off,’ it is the private owner who would have to come and say that,” Symister said.
To be sure, the ire is about more than two families. The shantytown comprises about six homes. In addition to the poor aesthetics, residents in Yorks have complained repeatedly about the health hazards, since the squatters don’t have indoor bathrooms.
Ironically, at the onset of the APUA investigation, Symister said that in addition to reviewing the applications, APUA would have to be prepared to take disciplinary action if its agents were found guilty of illegal connections. Now the shoe is on the other foot.
“We will have to conduct a probe now that APUA has shown that DCA had given its stamp of approval, which is what APUA relies on, and, clearly, they are squatters. It means that at DCA, the approval process must be reviewed to ensure that this kind of thing doesn’t happen,” Symister said.
He said he’s waiting on a comprehensive report from acting Chief Town and Country Planner Frederick Southwell before he speaks definitively about the issues of the connections specifically and island-wide squatting generally.
In addition to Yorks, there are frequent complaints about squatters in Perry Bay, in an area known as Spanish Town, and Pigotts, among other locales.
Though circumspect as he awaits the report, Symister who assumed chairmanship of DCA in September, is adamant that the squatters who are creating health hazards must move.
The report should be ready in just over a week.
(More in today’s Daily OBSERVER)