Site of the new proposed international airport
Site of the new proposed international airport

Controversy continues over Government's plans to build an international airport in Wesley as a number of concerned villagers continue raising their voices about Government's handling of land acquisition.

Under the banner of "The Wesley Development Organization (WDO)", the group, comprising of a number of professionals who were born in that village was formed to advocate on behalf of residents who have concerns about the project.

David Edwards, a spokesperson for the group, said that WDO is "not against the construction of the airport per se", but he is worried about the anticipated socioeconomic impact of the project on the village and the "lack of consultation" by the government with residents of the community.

"We are very worried about the proposal to build a jet runway, through major residential areas of the Wesley village that is the centre of our concern. We are opposed the destruction of the Wesley village, it will be threatened and destroyed," Edwards said.

"It is going to rob the Wesley people to participate in the much-talked-about blue economy. We are also of the view that if the village is not destroyed during construction it will be consumed."

The government, he said, has been resolute in its efforts at building an international airport but it has not had any meaningful discussions with the people.

"They have had sidebar meetings and they are yet to put forward their proposals to the Wesley people…it would appear that the Government is going ahead with its plans as a stand-alone project," Edwards said.

Supporting Edwards' view, Isaac Baptiste, the President of the opposition United Workers Party (UWP) and a physical planner/architect, said a report by Planning and Stanley Engineering in 1998 recommended the Londonderry site for the airport and all detailed plans were approved by the International Civil Aviation Authority and the OECS Aviation Authorities based in Antigua. The UWP formed the government from 1995 to 2000.

Baptiste said he conducted property evaluation for persons whose properties would be impacted by the airport and based on where those properties are located in Wesley, he is convinced that when the airport is completed, "if they do construct along the lines that they are now talking about, Wesley will be decimated."

"It will destroy Wesley, in terms of the removal and dislocation of properties of people and what will be left of Wesley is noise pollution, dust pollution and other pollutions…," he said.

He maintains that the site the Prime Minister is now referring to is not a new site.

"The Freedom Party looked at that site and they turned it down because of the impact it would have had on Wesley," Baptiste said. "The United Workers Party also looked at that site and it was turned down by the government on the advice of the consultant, because of the tremendous impact it would have had on Wesley."

But Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said recently on his weekly "Anou Palay" radio programme that Planning and Stanley Engineering had no experience in airport development and he suspects that "there may be political interference in this report."

He said the Government's decision to seek another location was based on the findings of a team of local experts which was set up in 2008 to review previous studies on the construction of an international airport in Dominica.

The team presented its report in 2009 after studying the Sir Alexander Gibbs Report and the Planning and Stanley Report. which was produced during the Dominica Freedom Party (DFP) administration,

"They set aside the UWP site of 1998, for a number of reasons," the prime minister stated. "The visibility issue, massive cloud cover, it would only be…non-instrument landing and the airport would be in serious difficulty in terms of functioning because visibility would be poor. So they set aside this report and went ahead with the recommendations of Sir Alexander Gibbs in respect to the location"

Skerrit said around 411 acres have been acquired to build the airport and compensation to landowners is expected to be completed by the end of January 2021.

Skerrit announced that construction on the project is scheduled to begin in the first quarter of 2021.

Several calls to obtain the response of Wesley parliamentary representative Fidel Grant were unsuccessful. Grant promised our reporter that he would shed some light on the matter but several calls and messages later to his phone were unanswered.