Local developer Mark Maloney is sharply pushing back on the notion that Town and Country Planning procedures were circumvented in the granting of permission to build the multi-million dollar Hyatt Centric Hotel at Bay Street, The City.
The permission, which was granted by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart for the construction of the controversial 250-room hotel, is currently being challenged through the judicial review process by Attorney-at-Law and Social Activist David Comissiong.
On March 22, Comissiong lodged the legal challenge to the construction in the Supreme Court. He had based his claim on 12 grounds, including the failure of Government to have public consultations or to carry out an environmental impact assessment (EIA) on the major beachfront development.
The Attorney had also argued that Stuart had relied on an outdated Physical Development Plan, even though Section 11 (1) of the Town & Country Planning Act stipulates that the plan, which is now 14 years old, must be updated every five years.
He also took issue with the 15-storey elevation, pointing out that the maximum height allowed for beachfront hotels was five storeys.
However, breaking his silence on the issue today, Maloney was adamant that everything was done above board during the two-year process of seeking planning approval for the US$100 project.
Speaking with the media during an “interactive session with the public” at the Bay Street site, Maloney explained that even though an EIA was not done, there was a Heritage Impact Assessment which, in his estimation, is not dissimilar to the EIA.
“I don’t want it to be said that we circumvented any processes or we were granted any special favours . . . we did a Heritage Impact Assessment and I am not aware of any project in Barbados that has done a Heritage Impact Assessment. We were told that we needed to do a Heritage Impact Assessment and we gladly did it and it taught us a lot that we didn’t know,” Maloney said.
He also explained that had the EIA been included in the requisite requirements for project approval, the developers would have been more than willing to bear the cost of conducting one.
“Perception sometimes becomes a reality if people do not know better and what we are sharing with you are the facts because for us it is about doing what is right for Barbados,” Maloney said.
“It is not about bringing this brand hotel and putting up a 15-storey building and not meeting the requirements of UNESCO or the heritage impact or environmental impact. It is in our best interest to ensure that what we do is in the best interest of our planning and all of our regulatory agencies because Hyatt is a brand that is not going to do anything which is not in keeping with requirements in the countries they operate in,” he stressed.
In addition, the businessman revealed that painstaking efforts were made to ensure that the concerns of surrounding residents pertaining to access to the beach as well as possible strain on the Bridgetown Sewage Treatment System were all addressed.
“There is no way that a project of this size gets anywhere by circumventing processes. We have done everything that we have been required to do,” he said.
“There are mnay projects in Barbados ongoing now that have not had this type of criticism yet we have actually engaged with the UNESCO world heritage bodies and have addressed their concerns in accordance with the law on regulatory agencies. We are also interested in hearing from the people and in fact privately we have heard from everyone,” he pointed out, expressing optimism that in spite of the ongoing court action, the project would be completed in 18 months’ time.