The Barbados National Trust is knocking Government over the demolition of two historic buildings in Queen’s Park, The City, accusing the Freundel Stuart administration of having a narrow view of development.
President Peter Stevens told Barbados TODAY his organization was dismayed that Government ignored its objections and proceeded to tear down the buildings.
The structures were removed to make way for expansion of the main house to provide better theatre facilities for next year’s Caribbean Festival of Arts (CARIFESTA 2017) to be held here.
The Trust contended that both structures could have been fully restored to their former glory and become useful components of The City’s public park.
“The Barbados National Trust does not condone unnecessary demolitions of historic buildings, particularly when full and informed discussions have not been exhausted,” Stevens said.
“We had tried our best to get the relevant authorities to listen to our point of view. We participated in what is the normal planning procedure, and clearly they didn’t take our advice as being relevant to their plans and they proceeded with the demolition of the buildings. We have essentially completed our responsibility as an advisory body to Government. It doesn’t change our position. Obviously, they got planning permission to proceed with the development without any changes,” he added.
This is the second time in as many months that the privately owned trust has objected to structural work at a designated heritage site, the first being the proposed 15-storey Hyatt Hotel on Bay Street, The City.
In a direct response to the Trust’s objection to the multi-million dollar hotel, Chief Town Planner Mark Cummins made it clear it was the island’s sovereign right to determine its best national development interest, which superseded any heritage designations.
“I can’t speak for the National Trust, but what I will say is that the National Trust is one of the partners with whom we consult and they have shared their views. However, the views of the National Trust are always respected, but it does not mean that the views of the National Trust are always correct,” Cummins said recently.
However, Stevens retorted by describing Cummins’ position as a myopic view of development.
“First of all, the word development tends to be used within a very narrow context. Development is a very broad thing and development does not just mean the construction of new structures. . . . Part of our national development is also not to forget our history. I just want to make it clear that we don’t see development in such a narrow context. That site [Queen’s Park House] could have been developed to include those buildings. Their uses could have changed, and our idea was that its use as a theatre really discounts anybody having real access to the house on any daily basis,” Stevens argued.
He added that any repurposing of the Coach House should have been in keeping with its historical point of reference.
“In my memory of Queen’s Park House, theatrical productions were few and far between. How many people have actually experienced going upstairs at Queen’s Park? Not too many people. People go into the park every day; but where can you go to get a drink at Queen’s Park when there isn’t a function going on? Why couldn’t the Coach House be developed into something that people could use on a daily basis, which would create business? It is a very beautiful public park, but there is no facility,” the National Trust head lamented.