MARIGOT–District six representative Georges Richardson has expressed concern about expropriation plans for high-risk areas such as Sandy Ground and has called for clarity on the issue from the Collectivité.
“The people of Sandy Ground are finding it very difficult to digest and understand this talk of expropriation, particularly as many of them have property here for decades,” said Richardson. “And now out of the blue they feel they are going to be uprooted. It is especially confusing since Louis-Constant Fleming’s administration started the work to give people title to their land and which is still ongoing. Why would France now be doing a U- turn?
“Nobody is really coming out and telling us the truth,” he added. “Each elected official or government official has a different take on it. There’s no guarantee that moving people out of Sandy Ground will make them any safer. This is an island surrounded by water and a tsunami could come from any direction. What assurance do the people have for their protection? When you hear that 10 million euros was set aside for expropriation, it’s clear that was decided a long time ago and that’s very troubling.”
The money for expropriation, called “Fonds Barnier,” is provided by France after any natural catastrophe to help the population if expropriation is necessary. In this case for St. Martin it’s 10 million euros.
A spokesperson of President Daniel Gibbs’ cabinet responded to the concern. “President Gibbs was very clear about this on the radio stations. He will not do anything now concerning expropriation because it makes no sense if you have no solution, in other words you cannot expropriate and then have nowhere to move the people to.
“The President is not making a decision on this now. In fact, he does not want to take the expropriation step. He knows the money is there, but 60 per cent of the population has no insurance and you need to have insurance to be eligible for the Barnier funds.
Most of those people living in red, high-risk zones do not have insurance. In the meantime, we wait for the new Plan Prevention des Risques Naturelle (PPRN) to come out in 2019 at which time the situation will be analysed again.
“The President’s objective is prevention and finding solutions. That means rebuilding to the recommended codes and making your property as secure as possible, to the extent of having a safe room.”