MARIGOT–The Territorial Council united with one voice on Wednesday to request an extension of the consultation period on the revised natural risk prevention plan (PPRN), for the benefit of the population and the Collectivité. It was the last and most anticipated of the agenda points at this meeting, the last until September.
The motion asked if the Council was for or against the application project of the PPRN and to request from the State a “supplementary and reasonable” extension of the consultation process before any documents are signed that are relevant to it. The entire council unanimously voted against the current version of the PPRN.
Given how the population has reacted to the PPRN’s implications in recent weeks, the vote on the subject was not unexpected, though the opinion of the Council had not been heard thus far. It was confirmed on Wednesday, following President Gibbs’ declaration that the PPRN must follow the Collectivité’s “political vision.”
The subject matter debated was largely repetitive, echoing the population’s sentiments. Gibbs and First Vice-President Valérie Damaseau remarked that Councillors basically expressed the same thing with different variations, but importantly arrived at the same conclusion.
Gibbs said he is not against the official PPRN document but against the “methods” of implementing it.
Damaseau said that it is up to the people to now continue to make their voices heard during the public enquiry phase, which lasts until December. “We must continue to stand firm and united. We can disagree in a respectable manner but always remembering to keep our best interests at heart, which is the future of our island,” she said.
Opposition Councillor Jules Charville expressed his concern about the potential deconstruction of certain urban zones, saying that the Préfecture is “encouraging” persons or families to be housed elsewhere on the promise of a significant cash hand-out, after which their property will be demolished. He quoted Préfète Feucher as admitting that approximately 12 families have so far opted to move, but on what Feucher described as a voluntary basis.
“The State seems to be in a hurry to execute this and we have to keep that in mind,” Charville said. He went as far as to say the PPRN is a matter of “life or death” for the territory.
Vice-President Steven Patrick said that Hurricanes Luis and Irma produced arguably comparable damage, but it took the State 16 years to come up with a PPRN after Luis in 1995 and one with no restrictions.
“The difference between those two hurricanes is that today we have many more insurance companies that are, in my opinion, lobbying to protect their pockets and the State is bending to their wishes. The social and economic impact on our community will be devastating if this PPRN version goes through. Restricting the building of hotels, houses, restricting reconstruction – it is as good as a death sentence.
“The State, on advice of Direction de L’Environment de L’Amenagement et du Lodgement (DEAL), has threatened to block and revoke any building permit issued by this government and has gone as far to threaten revoking our competence on urbanism if any permits are issued. The State has not offered any viable solutions or alternatives to address our situation – just restrictions.
“There are adaptive construction solutions and protective measures in use around the world that can minimise our risk, but all those suggestions have fallen on deaf ears. Since when do functionaries in Paris decide on the future of St. Martin and its people? I urge you, Mr. President [Gibbs – Ed.], to have our two Parliamentarians to lobby in both Parliaments on our behalf, to extend the consultation and change the regulations,” concluded Patrick.