A new Town & Country Planning Act is expected to go before Parliament before the end of November, with Prime Minister Mia Mottley today taking issue with the current state of overcrowded, low-income housing districts, including The Pine, St Michael.
“We have a situation in The Pine, in Wildey [St Michael], in Silver Hill and Gall Hill [Christ Church], and we wonder why we have the social problems that we have without recognizing that we have literally participated in the calcification of Government policy and programming over the years,” Mottley said, explaining that houses built in the 1950s and 60s were not as wide as the platform she was standing on delivering her address, but were housing “three and four generations of people”.
She stressed that “in the absence of effective planning, people have done what they wanted to do in order to accommodate the overcrowded aspects of those housing [units]. When I go through some of those areas, and I think in particular of The Pine, it is the closest thing to a favela that you would see,” adding that “we have an urgent obligation to do right by our people both in terms of density and functionality and aesthetics with respect to our housing.
“So I would like to hear you, not just on the things that excite big business in terms of the process of planning, but the things that will lead to greater social cohesion and economic enfranchisement,” the Prime Minister told participants in a special stakeholder consultation on the reformation of the Town & Country Planning Act at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.
Insisting that Barbados did not have the luxury of time, Mottley said the over five-decades-old legislation was in urgent need of review and modernization.
“We do not have the luxury of time and therefore I have asked that these consultations take place within the next four to six weeks so we can move to the state of drafting, even if it means us engaging in a special purpose framework for that drafting to take place because we want this legislation before Parliament before the end of November,” Mottley said.
During the event, which was streamed live on social media, Mottley questioned if the general public should not have a “greater say” on the building development process.
The consultation was designed to, among other things, give stakeholders a chance to discuss the new legislation, specifically as it relates to appeals, development control and management and development planning and the physical development plan.
Among concerns raised were the length of time it takes for decisions to be made by the department; issues relating to the appeals process; the location for construction and whether simple and complex applications should be subject to the same process.
Mottley, who has responsibility for the Town and Country Planning Department, insisted that while it was important to “protect some Barbadian vernacular”, including architecture and aesthetics, it was equally critical that policies ensure buildings were of a certain standard to withstand hurricanes and storms.
She also raised several questions that she asked stakeholders to discuss, one being whether Barbados should consider building in the ocean.
“The question is, are we satisfied that we have done the work to determine what are the consequences of such construction to our environmental land and seascape or if we haven’t, should we not now do it . . . These are questions we must ask ourselves,” the Prime Minister said.