Mr Stuart, take down this wall!
This is the strong message being sent to Prime Minister Freundel Stuart in his capacity as the minister responsible for town planning, and the Town & Country Planning Division regarding the structure at the entrance to the Villages at Coverley along the Adams section of the ABC Highway.
The latest to join the chorus of criticism is the Barbados Road Safety Association (BRSA), which is throwing its support behind the African Heritage Foundation (AHF), which has set out on a mission to have the “illegal” construction removed.
“If no permission was given for that protrusion, why was the developer allowed to put it up? Why was it allowed?” BRSA President Sharmane Roland-Bowen asked.
“No one should be above the law. We need to look at our principles and standards that we are setting. Why are we allowing persons of wealth to be above the law and above the safety of Barbadians and road users?” she added.
The extension has long been a bone of contention between Mark Maloney, the Villages developer, and Town & Country Planning, which argued that it was dangerous.
It became a major talking point after 11-year-old Abijah Holder-Phillips died in an accident there on June 26, 2015, while returning home from his primary school graduation.
The vehicle driven by his mother, Felisha Osula Holder, hit the structure and ended up on its side. Abijah died on the spot, while his 13-year-old sister Ibrel, who was also in the car, suffered a broken left leg.
The mother was recently charged with causing death by dangerous driving, provoking the ire of many, including Barbados Labour Party leader Mia Mottley, who recently said Maloney should also be charged, as well as social activist and attorney-at-law David Comissiong and the AHF, both of whom have called for the charges to be dropped.
The AHF has also stopped just short of suggesting that Town & Country Planning was practising double standards by failing to take down the structure.
“The structure at Coverley that Felisha struck was deemed illegal and unsafe by Town & Country Planning sometime before the accident happened. So we are asking why hasn’t the contractor called to task, and more so, why hasn’t the Town and Country authorities moved to move the structure themselves seeing that they deemed it was dangerous and illegal to be there?” AHF President Paul Simba Rock told a news conference at the charity’s Two Mile Hill, St Michael office.
“We have had cases before in other areas like in Deacons some years ago where some of the fellows built up some little kiosks to do their little different activities – cut hair and sell fruits – but Town and Country deemed that to be illegal and they moved in quite quickly and pushed down the structures and they have done that on a number of occasions. So we question why this wasn’t done in this case and why three years after Felisha Holder is now being accused of reckless driving causing the death of the her son,” Rock stressed, while AHF Trustee Keturah Babb added that the extension should be removed “so that it is no longer a danger to other motorists, other pedestrians and road users”.
While the AHF is seeking to increase pressure on Director of Public Prosecutions Donna Babb-Agard to discontinue the case against Holder – it has launched an online petition in this regard – Roland-Bowen was not prepared to completely absolve the mother.
The road safety advocate said while she sympathized with the grieving woman, it must first be determined whether or not she was distracted at the time of the accident.
“If she was, there should be a penalty for that, you know driving distracted without due care and attention. So was she or wasn’t she? So was she fully focused on the road?” Roland-Bowen asked, adding that the accident should be an example to others to drive defensively and pay rapt attention.
She said the issue also raised the question of the need for independent road safety audits on the island’s roadways.
“If that was done, what were the results? And if it was not done, why not? In Barbados we need to go the way of conducting road safety audits on a number of our roads to see the safety standards,” Roland-Bowen said, while raising concern about safety at the D’Arcy Scott roundabout in Warrens, St Michael and the island at Newton, Christ Church, near the site of the new Chefette restaurant.