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Property developer Phanason is scrambling to shore up a huge retaining wall at its project The Park Condominium on Nanai Road in Patong before heavy downpours spell disaster for residents living below.
The site has already seen homes flooded by runoff that poured through drainage holes in the wall.
Then last year, rainwater that massed inside the wall broke off concrete panels that plunged 12 meters and crashed through a villa patio roof below.
Luckily, no one was injured in the incident, though the rainwater followed, again flooding the houses below.
One resident who lives in the shadow of the wall noted that Phanason had compensated the victims for damages to their properties, but said the payoffs have not helped the villagers sleep better at night.
“They reimbursed homeowners for damage – but that’s not enough. There is no sign that anything has been done to prevent more damage from happening again,’ he said.
“We don’t need money, we need to sleep. Whenever it rains, we have to listen carefully to the wall just in case it breaks again.”
The plunging concrete slabs last year prompted Mayor Chalermluck to meet with the residents, and to order a ban on construction at the site.
“I have ordered the developer to excavate the hill-side of the wall to relieve pressure on the structure as quickly as possible,” Patong Mayor Chalermluck Kebsup told The Phuket News this week.
“They have also half-finished installing two retaining ponds to catch runoff. They already had three retaining ponds completed.”
The contractor has also been ordered to install a storm drain along the inside of the wall to catch and redirect runoff away from the top of the steep slope.
Mayor Chalermluck pointed out that the developer was “inches away” from legal action, after she ordered construction at the site to a halt in July last year.
She also confirmed that Patong Municipality had not issued a building permit for the project.
“We issued one only for a site office. The condo project itself has not even passed its EIA [Environmental Impact Assessment],” she said.
On the EIAs alone, Phanason has failed twice to gain approval for the project, she noted.
“They are permitted only to make these safety improvements. No other construction is allowed for now. If they break this ban, they will face legal action,” she warned.
“On Tuesday, I also reminded them that they will be held responsible for any damage caused to any of the homes below.”
Kasem Sukwaree, director of the Phuket Environment Office, explained that the two EIA proposals Phanason filed – and were denied – covered the whole project, which comprises seven, seven-storey condo buildings, with a total of 1,027 units.
However, he added that Phanason may yet gain EIA approval, if the required standards were met.
“Then they could be issued a building permit,” he said.
Meanwhile, despite the contractor not being issued a valid building permit, two of the buildings have already been completed.
Mayor Chalemluck and Mr Kasem both did not elaborate on whether or not Phanason would face any legal action over the illegal construction.
After at least six calls to Phanason for comment, the marketing manager, who declined to be publicly identified, told The Phuket News that a formal letter was required in order for the project manager to respond.
The letter has been sent. The marketing manager said a reply would be likely next week, as the project manager was on vacation.
The marketing manager also declined to reveal the identity of the project manager, saying that the information was “personal”.
In light of the Phanason Patong project, Mayor Chalermluck urged prospective property buyers in Phuket to check first that the developer has a building permit for the project advertised.
“This project is a good example of what can happen if they don’t have one,” she said.