The Barbados National Trust is taking exception to recent comments by Chief Town Planner Mark Cummins regarding the Trust’s objection to the construction of the controversial Hyatt hotel in Bay Street, The City.
The Trust had previously said that placing the 15-storey property on the proposed site risked costing Barbados its UNESCO World Heritage designation.
This had not gone down well with Cummins who last week made it clear that the World Heritage designation would not determine whether or not the hotel project received Government approval, and that the island’s sovereign right to determine its best national development interest superseded UNESCO’s heritage designations.
“Barbados is still a sovereign country. Barbados still has development goals and being appointed to the World Heritage list does not mean that development in Barbados will stop,” the Chief Town Planner had told the media last Thursday following the unveiling of a plaque to commemorate those who had served 25 years or more at his department.
Trust President Peter Stevens fired back, telling Barbados TODAY in an interview Monday it was unreasonable for anyone to suggest that his organization was against development.
“The idea was also floated that being on the World Heritage list is seen as a means, by some, to prevent development. It is our view that World Heritage is development, and opens the door to new forms of development with broad, positive social impacts. However, we can only stay on the list so long as we continue to qualify for the designation, and the National Trust is obligated to raise concerns when we believe that status is in danger,” Stevens said.
In any event, he said, while Cummins got it right when he said the laws of Barbados superseded the UNESCO designation, having applied to be on the list, Barbados must be prepared to do what is necessary to remain there.
“I am not aware of anyone and certainly not the Barbados National Trust, who is advocating otherwise [that the World Heritage listing supersedes the laws] as might be inferred from the overall statement published. However, what is more to the point is that, as signees to the World Heritage Convention, we applied to be included on the World Heritage list, not the other way round, so we must assume that we wish to stay on it. This is a reasonable assumption as we are in the process of applying for an additional site to be inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list,” Stevens said.
In his interview last week, Cummins had said the Trust’s views were not always right.
Stevens said this diluted the advisory process, and he advised the Chief Town Planner to focus on the “relevance of the advice” he is given.
“Though it may not have been intended, the impression given undermines the value of the advisory process. Each advisory body dispenses their duty based on the expertise and knowledge of their particular agency. The planning authority should not be judging the correctness of the advice but more the relevance of the advice to a particular application. The Barbados National Trust takes its advisory role very seriously, and I am confident that we will continue to carry out this service in line with the Trust’s policy and our commitment to cultural heritage in Barbados,” Stevens told Barbados TODAY.