Ministry of Public Works to remove fixed structures and caravans from along seawall

Ministry of Public Works to remove fixed structures and caravans from along seawall

Demolition teams from the Ministry of Public Works were on standby today awaiting the Government’s green light to remove a number of food caravans, and prefab structures, which house mini restaurants and bars lining the Georgetown Seawall.

The move comes just one day after the Ministry of Public Works and the Sea Defence Board informed vendors that immobile structures between Camp Street and Vlissengen Road will be removed completely to make away for a Government enhancement project.

44-year-old businesswoman, Akicha Coates, said she returned to Guyana to invest in the Tourism and Hospitality Industry. She operates a restaurant and bar along the seawall and was doing so with the full permission of the same Ministry of Works that is now moving to demolish her business place.

“Yesterday, when I went and buy a brand-new cooler $250,000 and a stove and bring it in, they called me at 1 o’clock for a 3 o’clock meeting, saying that whatever we had on the contract you have to abide by that, you got to be mobile. But now this morning I was told that the roof is okay, but the roof is not mobile. My container is mobile but now they are saying the container have to move, which is mobile,” a frustrated Coates told News Source. 

Coates explained that in 2021 she received permission from the Sea Defence Board to operate a mobile food caravan on the seawall, and a contract to that effect was signed. However, it was not until December 2022 that she secured that caravan in the form of a container. 

She said after an eight-month hiatus due to the seizure of her caravan, she was again allowed to sell out of the structure, once it was painted and kept clean. Coates said due to the inclement weather, she was forced to erect a shed. 

“They came and see me while I was building and they said, who give you permission to build the roof? So, I said I didn’t realize that I needed permission to build the roof because I see everybody else putting on a roof in front, and they called me to a meeting, and said okay, you can go ahead, they like it,” Coates recalled. 

Coates said the contract, which specifies only mobile structures, is meant to frustrate the vendors as the Sea Defence Board and the Ministry of Public Works continue to send mixed signals. 

Proprietor of Sea Roc Sports Bar, Horace Knights said after investing $40M in his business, he was told that the entire prefab structure would have to be removed with immediate effect – some seven months after opening for business on September 8.

Knights said the one-day notice given to business operators in the area is totally insufficient and unreasonable, noting that he paid his fees in full for the entire year.

“I am an investor in this country, I am a local investor, and the last time I checked I have a birth certificate, I am a Guyanese. And if I could invest in $40M even though it is not my land you should consider me in some way. You just can’t come at a meeting 3 o’clock and ask me to start moving by tomorrow, that’s not how you treat investors,” the businessman said.  

According to Knights, the prefab structure, which is not built into the ground, was constructed in accordance with the specifications laid out, and approved by the Commission. However, he installed shutters to secure his investment. 

“All I did was put on shutters. So, they look at the whole thing as if it is an enclosed thing but I had to put on shutters because people would come in an vandalize, people would come in and sleep, so I put on shutters to secure it. I started building out here since March month, everybody passed and see me building from March to the 8th of September, that’s when I opened. I had no problem, they row about the sides, I explained what it is, nothing is in the ground, everything is just rest, is 4×4 galvanized hollow section,” he explained. 

But Minister of Public Works, Juan Edghill told News Source that the vendors were forewarned that they were in breach of the contract issued by the Sea Defence Board. 

Alluding to the contract, Minister Edghill said the vendors were not given permission to use permanent structures and as such all containers, sheds and other permanent structures would be removed.

“The containers that they put down all will be removed because they don’t have permission to put down permanent structures…that is the issue, it is not about vending…nobody got permission to build sheds… This is not something that started now. We have been on this for months. We have broken down 17 pit latrines or more pit latrines. They didn’t complain about that. That’s what they had on the seawall. People are living there now,” Minister Edghill explained. 

According to the contractual agreement between the vendors and the Sea Defence Board, all vending structures must be mobile, aesthetically beautiful and modestly sized not exceeding a plan area of 100 square foot.

According to the contract, acceptable structures include collapsible tents, vending trucks, vending carts and similar structures which can be easily transported, and all structures must be removed from the seawall daily. 

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