The new chairman of the Cabinet-appointed Barbados World Heritage Committee, which has responsibility for the overall management and protection of this country’s UNESCO World Heritage site designation, is staying clear of the controversy surrounding the proposed Hyatt Centric Resort Hotel.
The 15-storey luxury property is due to be built within the heritage site on Bay Street, The City. However, social activist and attorney-at-law David Comissiong has objected to its construction and has threatened to take legal action to stop the hotel if the project is not subjected to a comprehensive environmental impact assessment. Comissiong has contended that the hotel will have implications for the environmental well-being of the City of Bridgetown and its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The Barbados National Trust (BNT), which is represented on the Barbados World Heritage Committee, has already objected to the project, fearing its construction would cause Barbados to lose its crucial World Heritage designation for the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison and put it on the “danger list”.
However, the Chief Town Planner has been mum on the developments following his decision to step down from at the helm of the committee six months ago. Cummins, who returned to office Monday after his annual holiday, could not be reached for comment on the matter.
However, when contacted, Steve Devonish, who recently took over as chairman of the Committee following Cummins’ resignation, refused to be drawn into any public discussion on either Cummins’ decision to call it quits, without any public explanation being given, or the contentious project itself.
“I am not answering any questions on Hyatt,” Devonish told Barbados TODAY.
When pressed about his committee’s role in approving the Hyatt project, the heritage chairman however made it clear that “Hyatt was an application to the Town & Country Planning Office”, insisting that “they are the best ones to tell you about that.
“They are the ones who Hyatt would have made an application to,” he said.
However, Barbados TODAY understands that the controversial project is down for discussion at the next meeting of the heritage committee, which last met 16 months ago and is therefore due to meet.
Barbados TODAY investigations further indicate that if the committee, comprising representatives from Government and non-governmental organizations, stays true to the provisions of the heritage convention, it is unlikely to recommend a 15-storey building since Article 11 of the Convention, at Paragraph 4, mandates it to “establish, keep up-to-date and publish” a list of any properties threatened by “serious and specific dangers, such as the threat of disappearance caused by accelerated deterioration, large-scale public or private projects or rapid urban or tourist development projects and destruction caused by changes in the use or ownership of the land”.
At the UNESCO World Heritage Committee’s 33rd session in Seville, Spain in June 2009, a draft document was presented containing decisions made by the committee with respect to properties on the In-Danger list.
Among the projects included on the UNESCO “In Danger” list was a development project in Cologne, Germany, which the committee objected to because it felt the group of small building would destroy “the visual integrity of the urban landscape, dominated by the cathedral tower”, which is similar to the concern being raised about the 15-storey Hyatt.