The Barbados Town & Country Planning Department is going digital. And officials are predicting that this should help improve the climate of doing business in Barbados by shaving about 13 business days off the usually lengthy processing time.
Acting Chief Town Planner George Browne told a stakeholder consultation on Monday that within a matter of weeks the department would be officially launching the new e-planning platform.
He said the department had been operating some aspects of the online system for the past four months and were still in the process of ironing out some of the kinks as they trained staff.
The e-planning system, as it is being called, will allow applicants to submit their applications electronically and track them online.
Browne added that the system will also allow staff to store applications electronically; reduce the timeline for site reporting, increase accuracy and efficiency within the department; and allow staff to do a desktop analysis before going into the field.
The system will also give an indication of land changes over the last 50 years and provides land classification.
To date, more than 60,000 files have been scanned as the department transfers existing files unto the digital landscape.
“Within another week or so, we will launch this system. We are currently running a parallel system from our IT section which is looking at any minor problems. We want to make sure that when it is fully launched, all the issues would have been dealt with,” said Browne.
“The second phase,” he said, “will allow persons who submit applications to the Town & Country Planning Department to check their applications without having to come [in]. We are currently establishing the security around this system so persons will be given a special code that they can use to access the information” he added.
The town planner said it would decrease the number of calls to the department and save residents time since they no longer had to go to the office to view their applications.
“More importantly, it would allow those in the office to spend more time processing the application. So we will see an improvement and based on some statistics that our IT section has provided, this would reduce the processing time by between ten and 13 working days,” he said.
“We see this as a very significant step. We have also started the process of digitizing the boundaries of subdivisions and the parcels, and we would have gone back to applications that were approved in the 70’s and now that information is available electronically,” announced Browne.
The last World Bank Doing Business report, which placed Barbados at 132nd out of 190 countries – a drop from last year’s ranking of 117th – said construction permits usually take an average of 442 days to be approved.
This, the report said, compared with the average 191.8 days for Latin America and the rest of the Caribbean.
Barbados was ranked 155th out of the 190 countries when it came to the processing of construction permits.