Phuket’s B120mn road to Freedom Beach inches forward

PHUKET: The controversial new road planned to provide access to Freedom Beach, south of Patong, took a step closer to becoming reality as the project passed its third and final public hearing on Friday.

About 80 of the 100 participants who joined the hearing, held at the Patong Merlin Hotel, voted to approve the project, rebounding from a 64 per cent approval vote from the 50-plus attendees at the second hearing on October 15 last year (story here).

The first public hearing, held in July 2013, saw 94 per cent of attendees vote in approval of the project (story here).

Songkrit Sappakit, managing director of Phisut Technology Co, the consultancy hired by Patong Municipality to conduct the feasibility study, explained that the next step is to apply to the Office of National Environment Board (ONEB) in Bangkok for approval.

“Once approved, construction will take two years to complete,” Mr Songkrit said.

Local officials from the Royal Forestry Department (RFD) and the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment (MNRE) will be consulted when filing the application with the ONEB.

Approval from both environmental offices is required as the planned route for the new road – which will connect Sirirat Road to Tri Trang Beach, and pass Freedom Beach en route – crosses protected forest and SorPorKor land.

Somyot Ua-Apisitwong, the Phisut Technology expert who is compiling the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the project, said his team spent nearly a year studying how the project will affect the area.

“We will include in our plans measures to prevent landslides, manage traffic, restrict heavy vehicles from passing through and replant trees in areas that will be affected,” he said.

“We will cooperate with all environmental offices to make sure the project complies with all the necessary requirements to minimize the impact on the environment.”

Out of the small minority of local residents who objected to the project, Thanapong Chansawang, 45, voiced his concerns that the road would cause local boatmen to lose work as the number of tourists using their services would diminish and that the project itself would destroy the natural beauty of the area.

“The beach will be ruined when many tourists can easily get to it by using the road,” he said.

Mr Songkrit welcomed the feedback.

“Every comment we received today is good. We will use these to improve our plan before applying to the ONEB and the Cabinet to approve it,” he said.

— Irfarn Jamdukor

Phuket News

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