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Chaguanas – Part II - Bursting at the seams

Published Thursday 12th August, 2004


Photo: DAVID WEARS

This week we continue our examination of Chaguanas, the ‘new Capital of Trinidad’.

This article will outline some of the main challenges arising from the rapid pace of development there. In the early period of UNC governance, Lloyd Best made the declaration that the ‘pendulum had swung from the Port to the Plantation’. Best’s statement provoked much controversy, despite the underlying rationale in our political economy. Today, we can mention anecdotal evidence that, for at least 2 of our major banks, Chaguanas provides the most profitable branches, comfortably outstripping the results of the traditional commercial centres at POS and San Fernando. One would not be surprised to learn that this was the case for all the commercial banks.

In our view, the key difference between development here and in other parts of the country is that most of the private building is self-financed with limited bank financing needed to start. Given that it is not strictly necessary to seek statutory consent if you are not seeking bank financing and our national practice of avoiding regulations, there is a great incidence of unauthorised structures with implications for Chaguanas’ future development.

The key issues emerging in the medium term for Chaguanas would include –

  • Town Planning – The plan being used by the Town & Country Planning Division for this rapidly-growing part of the country is outdated and sorely in need of revision. The UDECOTT document quoted in last week’s article forms the background study to the required new plan but the existing frame of reference continues to pose a challenge until that revision takes place. The State cannot plan, far less provide, proper infrastructure without quality information on present demand as well as the likely nature and level of future requirements. That is the rationale behind the regulatory framework.
     

  • Infrastructure Deficit - The rate and quality of private development in Chaguanas has been such that the infrastructure facilities lag well behind what one would expect at this point. For example - Most of the surface water is still carried by open earthen drains. TSTT has a perennial shortage of new lines. The Borough is not connected to WASA’s sewerage system and therefore relies on privately-built treatment plants or soakaways. Given this infrastructure deficit and the pattern of unauthorised development in one of the country’s fastest-growing districts, it is a great challenge to move forward without disrupting the success of the private sector there. For the Borough to realise its potential, it would be necessary for the State to make significant infrastructural investment to provide for that growth.
     

  • New Commercial developments in Chaguanas – In tandem with POS, there is a new pattern of development in that the new commercial users are choosing to locate out of the traditional centre of the town. Recently we saw offered for sale of over 9 acres set out in 8 parcels of land at the Mulchan Seuchan Road, on the eastern edge of the towncentre. This is the preferred location for the class of users under discussion and we can expect to see new records being set for land prices in the series of sales, together with some further migrations out of the towncentre.
     

  • The release of the Caroni Lands – The unknown factor in all this is the role of the extensive Caroni lands on the pattern of land values and development of the Borough. A significant part of the area surrounding Chaguanas is owned by Caroni and the planned release of these can open up new possibilities for the sustainable development of the area. We return to the concerns raised in our earlier series on Caroni lands and the continuing uncertainty as to the proposals for this resource. Risk is a real part of the business environment, but continuing uncertainty on a question of this magnitude is adding to the challenges of taking the Borough to next level of its development.

The organic and unplanned development of Chaguanas belies its great potential as an exemplar for the nation. The Borough is not yet caught in the depth of problems that beset our other cities so we therefore have an opportunity to develop a city to the very best level we can. The presence and proximity of the undeveloped Caroni lands, the immature state of the infrastructure, the thriving commerce in the area and the relative wealth of the period all signal a new set of possibilities for Chaguanas. This is a challenge to establish a new precedent as to the best new Caribbean city. Do we have the vision and endurance to set a new standard for our children and ourselves?

Next week, we begin to look at the City of San Fernando and its real estate picture.

NEW RESIDENTIAL DEVELOPMENTS IN CHAGUANAS

Some of the new developments planned in this area include –

  • ‘Savitur’, Freeport. This is the Hindu Credit Union’s new, gated community, reportedly sold-out at record prices for that area.
     
  • ‘Aberdeen Park’, Edinburgh. This is Caribbean Housing’s new development, also at record prices and with strong sales.
     
  • ‘Ozone Park’, Chase Village. This is a gated development of factory-built homes by the Amar Group; these are also being sold at record prices for that area
     
  • ‘Cashew Gardens’, Carlsen Field. This is an NHA development with more modestly-priced units

Afra Raymond - Property Matters

The organic and unplanned development of Chaguanas belies its great potential as an exemplar for the nation. The Borough is not yet caught in the depth of problems that beset our other cities so we therefore have an opportunity to develop a city to the very best level we can.