There have been apparent breaches in planning control reported recently in the Press. These have included developments by big businesses, as well as developments by smaller ones, or individuals.
In some cases, the Chief Town Planner has taken enforcement action under the Town & Country Planning Act, Cap 240. In others, he has gone so far as to remove unlawful structures, which the law allows him to do once due process has been followed. The most shocking thing about negative publicity for enforcement action is that such by the responsible public official should be considered controversial, as long as he has complied properly with the legislation and acted reasonably.
“Planning control is important,” says Yolanda Alleyne the Barbados Town Planning Society president, “because it is there to protect our environment
and contribute to the quality of life for everyone living in Barbados. More than that, planning control is one of the few measures available to help us conserve our environment and make sure Barbados stays
a wonderful place to live for current and future generations . . . .”
The Barbados Town Planning Society believes planning control plays a vital role in protecting the environment at the broadest level and in protecting the amenity of people living or working close to proposed developments. Moreover, an effective and efficient planning system gives confidence to investors and promotes economic development.
It is essential for Barbados to have such a system if the country is going to compete internationally and attract the inward investment which the island needs to provide a secure future for the whole population.
The legislative basis for planning control in Barbados is the definition of development in the Town & Country Planning Act, Cap 240: “the carrying out of building, engineering, mining or other operations in, on, over or under any land, the making of any change in the use of any buildings or other land or the sub-division of land”. This definition is deliberately very wide-ranging and intended to catch all development activity, unless some specific exception applies; and it is the responsibility of the developer to obtain planning permission.
If in doubt about whether planning permission is required, any developer can seek clarification from the Town & Country Development Planning Office at The Garrison, or obtain his/her own professional planning advice. The Act also allows developers to make a formal application to determine whether planning permission is required.
The Act gives the Chief Town Planner responsibility for deciding most planning applications, with a minority referred to the responsible minister (who is the Prime Minister). When development has been carried out without planning permission, or not in line with a valid consent, the Chief Town Planner can serve an enforcement notice.
This must state the actual contravention of planning control and the action required of the developer –– which can include demolition of any building or other works started without permission or cessation of an unauthorized use. The developer can still apply for planning permission retrospectively and the application will be considered as if it had been submitted at the proper time.
Where circumstances warrant it, the Chief Town Planner may also issue a stop notice that imposes immediate cessation of any building works or unauthorized use.
The Barbados Town Planning Society is well aware planning control in Barbados does not always operate as efficiently as we all would want. Our members who act for private sector developers understand the frustrations caused by slow decision-making. Such delay adds to the costs of development, and can prevent projects from going ahead.
There are obvious costs to the country in slowing down economic growth and preventing the creation of jobs. However, we do not condone the action of developers who proceed with their schemes before getting planning consent. The planning system exists for the benefit of everyone and for the protection of the environment we all share. By the same token it applies to everyone. Whether you are an individual householder or a major developer, if you want to carry out any form of development that falls within the Act, it is your duty to apply.
The Barbados Town Planning Society supports measures to improve the operation of planning control in Barbados and, following debate at our annual symposium last year, we published a report on Transparency And Modernisation Of Planning –– A Prospectus For Action. Among other things, the report recommends more public advertisement of planning applications, more consultation with neighbours and interest groups, implementation of reforms to the procedures for appeals and the process for the referral of certain applications to the minister, and various efficiency measures for the Town & Country Development Planning Office.
We have submitted this to Government and to other key stakeholders. The report is available on our website
(The Barbados Town Planning Society Inc. is a non-profit association of professional town planners and planning-related professionals from the public and private sectors interested in improving the town planning process and town planning outcomes in Barbados.)