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Phuket officials and governor's committee members discuss the Taj

Phuket Taj Drops Pier, Offers 50m Baht 'Forfeit'

Tuesday, October 13, 2009
PLANS for a new pier at the upscale Taj Exotica Resort development on a small island off Phuket have been dropped, a consultant said yesterday.

He also suggested a 50-million baht ''forfeit fund'' to help prevent environmental damage being caused during the resort's construction.

Best Wanamakok, General Manager of Wanamakok Civil and Engineering Consultants, said the existing public pier on Koh Lon would be used instead.

Environmental experts said the decision would save a coral reef along the island's beach from construction damage and pollution.

Khun Best acts for the Taj Exotica developers. His comments came as members of the governor's new environmental approvals committee toured two projects, accompanied by Phuketwan and other media.

''We are happy to proceed using the Phuket government's guidelines,'' Khub Best added. ''This is a 400 million baht investment in purchasing 136 rai, and construction will cost 1.5 billion baht.''

Power supply was an issue raised as the group walked around the beautiful Kao Kwang beach, where the Taj-owned property now retains an extensive frontage.

Generators would be used on the island, Khun Best said. Use of the existing public pier would also mean improvements for the existing narrow public road, he said.

Dr Hansa Jansang, a committee member from the Phuket Marine Biology Centre, asked how guests would come and go, striking comparisons with Mai Thon island, where she said the coral off the beach has been destroyed.

The Mai Thon resort had passed through several owners, she said.

Would Taj guests be indulging in watersports above and among the coral, and how would it be preserved, long term? Would speed boats be coming and going all day, transferring guests to and from the mainland?

If there were 100 guests, they might all want to go back and forth to Phuket at different times, Dr Hansa said. The Tal already plans a 24-hour on-call speedboat service.

It has been reported that the 121 villas could be Phuket's most luxurious accommodation so far, costing up to US$900,000 each.

Early-stage planning has 84 percent of the land being left to landscaping or jungle.

Khun Best suggested that an amount of 50 million baht could be held independently and forfeited by the developers if there were environmental breaches.

The next meeting of the governor's committee takes place on Thursday, October 15. Dr Narinee Tongtam and Dr Somchai Sakultap were other committee members on the tour.

Earlier, Dr Narinee and local authorities toured the proposed site of a new Novotel beachfront resort in Kamala, with the owners.

The property covers seven rai at the extreme north of Kamala Bay.

One of six resorts that were given first-stage approval just last week, the Kamala project will consist of 180 rooms. A Highways Department standard road will be built in to the property, but at the owners' cost.

The property owners, a Bangkok family, walked with the committee members and the local authorities around the planned resort.

Vichai Lertsachakul, Chairman of Paradise in the Ocean Co Ltd, told Phuketwan that the owners were happy to abide by government environmental guidelines.

He said the chanote title took the property to the edge of the sand, but they would build further back from the beach if it was deemed to be necessary.

A canal flowing into the sea next to the property may pose some future issues for flooding, committee members said. Water quality checks would need to increase from once every six months to once a month, a committee member said.

The road will be the first part of the project, once it has full approval.

The governor's environmental committee was created because of doubts about the efficiency of the previous system where environmental approvals were easily obtained.
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