Penn — whose concerns surround how the government’s current plan adversly shifts the location of the sections of the airport such as its runway — has, therefore, called for the government to have public consultations to let residents know exactly how the expansion project will be carried out and how it will affect surrounding areas.
He said these proposed design threatens to wipe out adjacent businesses and the Hans Creek National Park which is a protected area with great ecological and economic significance to the BVI.
“Based on this schematic [design], if this project is done, it will wipe out all the properties towards the west, all the properties on the east side of this proposed development and Hans Creek will be no more. I hope that this is just wishful thinking and that we’ll have a proper conversation and consultation in terms of what is being proposed there,” Penn said.
Penn recalled a series of marches that were held in the BVI to stop a previous development that was proposed in the vicinity of Hans Creek National Park.
He questioned why elected leaders would agree to destroy that area now when some of them were part of those protests held in the past.
“Are we saying we are now okay with something that could potentially wipe out Hans Creek and all the adjacent businesses in that area? It’s okay, no? Are we saying we are not going to have the level of consultations necessary for a project of this magnitude?” Penn questioned.
Notably, the expansion of the said airport was first proposed by the previous NDP administration of which Penn was a member. However, in a short convesation with our news centre Tuesday morning, Penn explained that the previous plans under the NDP merely sought to expand the runway and not change its location to disenfranchise local businesses or natural resources. He made it clear that he is not against the expansion itself.
In addition, Penn questioned the Airport Authority’s ability to fund the expansion of the airport, amid the battering the economy has taken from the onset of COVID-19.
“Considering that just recently, the same Airport Authority had to cut staff because of financial constraints. Where are we going to get the financing? There is a level of investment that is needed by the government. The budget does not reflect that reality. We have to set the right expectation,” Penn argued.
In his recent budget presentation, Premier Andrew Fahie announced that the Airports Authority is currently working on a $158 million business plan that will include runway, taxiway, aircraft parking, terminal, car park and roadway improvements.
This Capital Improvement Programme, will permit tourists and investors to fly nonstop to the BVI from major cities such as New York, Toronto and London, just to name a few cities.
The completion of the improvements is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2025.