Illegal squatting is really a cry for help by those with “little capacity to afford housing”, Opposition Leader Bishop Joseph Atherley declared in Parliament today.
The “instinct to squatting is borne of a certain need and a certain demand – it is the need for housing, the need for shelter [and] the need for access to land” and not a mere desire to be lawless, Atherley said in debate on a Green Paper on Planning Law Reform.
The Green Paper examines issues, considers options and makes recommendations for fundamental reform of the town planning legislation.
Making it clear that he was neither promoting squatting nor encouraging people to engage in the practice, Atherley nonetheless called on authorities to provide some assistance “where there is some level of degradation existing among those who must occupy those circumstances.
“Squatting is borne of a certain need… a certain demand . . . a certain class dynamic in Barbados . . . . Physical development planning has to take on board class dynamics,” said Atherley.
“It cannot take on board class dynamics in a one-sided way where we provide comfortably for those who have the wherewithal [and] can buy their way around, and we neglect the interest of those at the other end of the scale who have no access to land who have little capacity to afford housing and by circumstances then become driven to do the thing we would prefer them not to do,” he warned.
Among other things, the Green Paper outlines a number of policy goals to guide the review process of physical development planning in Barbados, ranging from transparency and accountability to efficiency and effectiveness and sustainable development.
In a wide-ranging speech, Atherley called for greater incorporation of engineering skills in construction in water zone areas, given the small size of the country and the growing demand for housing.
“The issue of the restrictions on land use because of the presence of what we call water zones has been a real bugbear in Barbados,” he said.
He then called for research on the impact of gated communities on society since he believed they had “the dangerous potential of alienating some segments of the population”.
While suggesting that Barbados consider building more high-rise dwellings, Atherley expressed concern that there were some “small housing units built in the 1950’s and 1960’s, which do not properly accommodate the life habits of 2018”.
“I believe that in going forward, planning need to look at that if Government is in a position to so do by itself or in a partnership arrangement with the private sector to develop the more modern Government housing settlements,” he said.
Atherley also took some City store operators to task over what he described as an abhorrent and obnoxious situation in the nation’s capital.
Referring to the foul smell in some City alleys, Atherley suggested that authorities put pressure on businesses to provide restrooms for shoppers.
“I don’t understand how in 2018 you still have a situation where you have to go into some business places in Broad Street that are making a lot of money, that post large and high numbers with respect to profits, that are bringing new charges and putting them on us every day, yet they would not provide a bathroom facility for their customers and clients,” he said.
Stating that the UNESCO world heritage listing of historic Bridgetown and its Garrison was important, Atherley said it should be used to ensure there was a greater level of tourist appeal even if it would mean passing legislation “to better protect our heritage sites”.