Landowners who ignore Government’s warnings to debush their vacant lots will be named, shamed and even forced to pay a fine if they want to ever develop or sell that property.
Tired of people not responding to appeals to clear their land, Minister of the Environment and Drainage Dr Denis Lowe said today his ministry was ready to take action.
He said he had received a report about 25 undeveloped lots in the Southern Heights, Christ Church community –– just one example of several cases of delinquency all across the island.
“What I want to do is passionately appeal to persons who own these lots to move with some haste to clean them up . . . . The next step in this appeal is that where individuals have ignored the appeal of the Government to move with haste to correct this situation and remove the menace from society, we are going to have to work with the relevant agencies to secure the correct information on ownership and have a published appeal that includes the names of landowners so that they can get the strong message that we are serious about this,” the minister said, stressing that it was not Government’s responsibility to clear privately owned lots.
“I know there has been conversation in the past where the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of the Environment, and the Ministry Responsible for Land Tax, contemplated a system where these lots would have a levy placed on them whenever Government steps in to clean them. That levy would also be attached to their land taxes and that when that levy is not paid persons who wish to move forward on the development or the sale of those lots would have to liquidate the outstanding debt brought against them because of this negligence.”
Lowe said the legal details still have to be worked out but a new Environmental Management Act, which is being drafted, will include a section dealing with this “critical issue”.
He also disclosed that the Ministry of Housing had been instructed too to clean up open areas of land around the country, which it is responsible for.
“We have spoken to them with regards to assisting them with our equipment where they have a deficiency of equipment to address those issues. The same message is true for Government agencies and Government employees. We have reached a stage in our society where we have to hold people accountable for their deeds. This is becoming a most unpleasant experience for the country where people have just completely ignored their responsibility,” he said.
In addition to flouting regulations when they do not comply with orders to clear their lots, the minister said, homeowners were also making life difficult for other residents.
“People are having problems in their communities with rat infestation, rodent infestation; they are having problems with mosquitoes; there has been an increase in the mosquito population; they are having problems with illegal dumping on these vacant lots. There are now cases where prowlers are hiding out in these areas and attacking persons who are going about their normal daily lives in the communities,” Lowe said.
“Children are at risk because you cannot now afford to let your children go out in the late evening and play because of these unsightly locations in the communities.
“We want to make our communities safe. We want to ensure that when people invest in land and develop their land and build their beautiful homes, that next door and across the street are not unkempt areas because it has an impact on the community. And in cases where it is not corrected, it has an impact on the value of people’s property.
“This is a simple attempt to say to Barbados let us work together to keep Barbados clean and let us always put Barbados first,” Lowe appealed.