MARIGOT–Merchants who are occupying the condemned Auberge de Mer building adjacent to Marina Royale will learn their fate on Monday, December 10, when a judge from the administrative court in Guadeloupe decides whether to suspend the demolition process to allow the occupants more time to find alternative locations, or to allow the demolition to proceed.
Demolition had been put on hold since the last protest action due to the court injunction submitted. The merchants have been protesting the two-month notice to vacate the building at the beginning of high season, citing insufficient time to find alternative premises. The Collectivité determined the building to be “in peril”, however, an independent expert survey paid for by the merchants indicated that was not the case.
The merchants staged a march on Wednesday morning to Hotel de La Collectivité seeking to have a meeting with President Gibbs to obtain answers. They were joined by about 30 supporters. Gibbs received a delegation in the presence of his Cabinet Director Hervé Dorvil, Director of Collectivité’s Sustainable Development Department Romain Perreau, representative from SEMSAMAR Yannick Beaud and Lisa Barrot from the SEMSAMAR subsidiary SAMAGEST.
President Gibbs reassured the delegation of his willingness to accompany them in finding intermediate solutions. While there is no legal obligation to relocate the dozen or so merchants in this building, President Gibbs was keen to support them: “I will not let down our socio-professionals who have been living in these premises for several years and whose business is their livelihood,” he was quoted as saying in a communique from the Collectivité.
At the moment both the Collectivité and the merchants are waiting for the verdict of the interim relief judge who is due to rule on December 10, the relevance of the expert opinions and the need or not to demolish the building. In the meantime, the merchants continue to operate.
If the demolition order is confirmed by the judge the President will propose temporary relocation solutions including the possibility of installing modules in the adjoining car park to allow merchants to exercise their profession for the duration of the building’s renovation work.
Specific requests will be analysed on a case-by-case basis to try to satisfy each stakeholder. Aware of each other’s needs, however, the President pointed out that the solutions will not be extendable because in the current economic climate alternative housing solutions are hard to come by.
If the demolition order is overturned by the judge the merchants will be able to remain on the premises and continue their activity knowing that in the long term the Collectivité plans a global project to renovate the Port la Royale Marina, with the main plans currently being defined and the first studies (legal form and content of the project) to begin in early 2019, after the end of the SEMSAMAR concession contract at the end of this year.
According to the Collectivité the exchanges with the five merchants present were constructive. The president wanted to reassure them about the relationship of trust that has been established and the support of the Collectivité. A second meeting between the president and the merchants will be organised after the judge’s decision.
Asked for his reaction to the meeting, Sébastien Brismeur from SXM Marine Diesel said: “The big issue has been the uncertainty. We want to know where we are going with all this, but the Collectivité doesn’t have a plan for us. These 11m2 modules they proposed to put in the car park are not going to work for any of us, and especially not the three restaurants and bars. Just one of my machines alone could not fit in one of them. Three weeks ago, they proposed that my business could go into the former tourism office, but now they are saying that building is going to be demolished as well. So why did they even mention it?”
Brismeur added the merchants are also waiting to see what the prosecutor decides after a complaint was filed at the Gendarmerie against the Collectivité and SEMSAMAR for endangering lives by permitting demolition work while the merchants were still in the building and doing business.