Opposition Senator Caswell Franklyn has accused the current Barbados Labour Party (BLP) administration of rushing the implementation of the Planning and Development Bill and favoring architects over draughtsmen in the process.
In a fiery contribution which drew a rebuke from President of the Senate, Sir Richard Cheltenham, when he accused the Government of corrupt practices, Franklyn referred to the public meetings held to discuss the draft bill as a “pappyshow” and said it was “sneaking” legislation past people who have an interest in it by coming to Parliament and not following procedures.
The Opposition senator was particularly concerned about the status of draughtsmen under the Bill, saying that they were being sidelined in favour of architects, who contrary to popular belief were not the the ones who determined whether a building would be viable.
“Draughtsmen are not the problem! What you need is a structural engineer who will ensure the building will be safe. An architect is not a structural engineer. He can draw any fancy thing, but the architects now want to get their way and they were able to prevail on the Government to limit the work of draughtsmen.”
Government Senator Dr Crystal Haynes intervened at this point, stating that, “Standards matter. Anybody with a CXC in Technical Drawing could be considered a draughtsman, but the final draft of the Bill allows draughtsmen to continue to draft plans for buildings up to ten units.”
On other matters regarding the Bill, the Opposition Senator said provisions for the removal of derelict buildings were addressed in Section 11 of the Housing Act, but hardly ever used, and presently when applications were refused, the Town Planning Department gave applicants at least three reasons for their decision.
Senator Franklyn also stated there were 400 outstanding applications within the department. “The staff is doing its best under the circumstances. The ministers who have to approve these things do not know about planning, and we need a system where the minister is taken out of the approval process. They should be involved in the policy-making process alone. Some of the people I represent are trained professionals who are overruled by an elected person who knows nothing about planning.”
Regarding the Planning and Development Board, Senator Franklyn said he saw the benefits of it under some circumstances. “I approve the hybrid system where the board will stick to planning decisions and leave civil servants to do their jobs. It is a good idea to have a second opinion on the more complicated applications.”
However, some elements of it still worried him.
“Delays in the Town Planning Department also come about because people have to wait on different agencies, like the Coastal Zone Management Unit, Environmental Division, Fire Service, Ministry of Transport and Works, etc. before approval can be granted, and if they don’t get that, the town planner’s hands are tied.
“Clause 28.3 says if approvals or comments are not given in a particular time, they can be disregarded, and the board or minister can approve the application. I hope it does not mean the board can waive or disregard environmental impact assessments or other geotechnical studies.”
Citing an example, Senator Franklyn said, “When the “Barrack building” was under construction, there was not enough preliminary work done, and it was only after a tractor accident that people discovered the amount of caves that were under it.”