San Fernando residents are moving to file an injunction to stop the Open Bible Church from erecting a three-storey building behind their homes.
The building is supposed to house the Open Bible High School, a private school which has been in existence for over 60 years.
But residents of Ramsaran Street and Mentor Streets told Guardian Media that construction started without any consultation a mere two metres from their homes. This has caused structural defects in their homes.
During a placard protest outside the school at Ruth Avenue, San Fernando, resident Andrew Mokund said they were being denied their constitutional rights to the enjoyment of their property.
He said more than 10 households were affected.
“This is against our constitutional rights and natural justice because when this building goes up we will no longer have any privacy, no ventilation or sunlight coming into our homes,” Mokund said.
He noted that the massive structure was seven times bigger than it once was and will completely block off light and air into their homes.
Since October last year, Mokund said they have been trying to meet with the Church officials to discuss the construction.
He noted that gaping cracks had already developed, noting that they have sent letters to the Environmental Management Authority, Town and Country Planning and the San Fernando City Corporation to complain. However, their cries have fallen on deaf ears, Mokund added.
“We have been making attempts for a review of the building since it started but without success,” he lamented.
“This is an affront to the community that has been in existence long before the church has been established. Our grandparents lived here and we have been living here for more than seventy years. The Church keeps ignoring our pleads for a reduction in the height of the school and a review of the proximity of the school to our houses,” Mokund said.
He also called for an investigation into who granted approvals.
An internationally licensed architect Andrew Thatcher who was hired to investigate said residents could expect further damage to their properties.
“The building is three storeys high which will cause the earth movements that have caused cracks. The earth is swelling with the structure that is there now. Further impact will be considerable when there is more weight because the structure is close to the sea. The waterbed is in 1,000 feet under the site that is there. The weight that is added will cause the structures to shift and there will be tear and strain on the existing structures now,” Thatcher said.
But national Secretary of the Open Bible Standard Churches, Mark David said the neighbours’ complaints were addressed by the Church.
“All complaints were ventilated to the relevant authorities. We have met with the neighbourhood and the relevant authorities have granted approvals,” David said.
He explained that the Church had made concessions about the height of windows.
“We have Town and Country Planning approval and the San Fernando City Corporation building approvals as well,” David said
He also said notice was given to resident before the start of construction.
“Everything is on file and environmental factors were considered,” David added.
Concerning the residents’ property defects, David said he was unaware of this, noting that it was regrettable that this information was coming from the media and not from the residents.
“We should have a discussion and see what is the cause of the challenges. We are not ignoring them. We had correspondence, meetings with representatives,” David said. He added that the Church officials were willing to hold further discussions with the community.