President of the Barbados National Trust (BNT) Peter Stevens and President of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) Verla De Peiza are welcoming news that the dilapidated official residence of Barbados’ Father of Independence Errol Walton Barrow will be finally restored to its former glory after many years of neglect.
De Peiza told Barbados TODAY that while she has no issue with the property being used as the headquarters of the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award Barbados Charity, she hopes that the promise is kept to restore the building which has fallen into significant disrepair and dilapidation and that it will not be torn down.
“We have a way of not appreciating our built heritage and if it is that this is what it takes to restore it then I am on board,” De Peiza said.
During yesterday’s parliamentary debate, the House of Assembly approved a resolution to lease the former official residence at Culloden Road, St Michael, to the charity.
According to Minister of Housing, Lands and Maintenance Dr William Duguid who brought the resolution in the Lower Chamber, the charity will lease the property for 25 years paying $1200 a month and will undertake all repairs with its own funds at an estimated cost of $4 million.
However, Member of Parliament Trevor Prescod expressed concerns about the Government’s decision to go this route with an organisation associated with British royalty. The Pan Africanist accused many of his colleagues of being in conflict with their conscience, while making it clear that he was not “tied up”.
Prescod has taken issue with the charity bearing the title of the United Kingdom’s Prince Phillip whose past he questioned. The MP suggested that British royalty is another symbol of colonialism, against which the island’s founding Father of Independence spent his life fighting, from right at his home at Culloden Farm.
Today, De Peiza said while she understands Prescod’s objection as it relates to who the trust is named after, the fact remains that the charity has had a positive impact on young people over many years.
“So I am not interested in that site. I am more interested in the preservation of our built heritage and I do hope that it is a restoration and not a pulling down to build something else. This is a way of getting a building that is really dilapidated at this point in time refurbished. We just tore down two in town, so I am hoping that this is not another tear down, but refurbishing and restoring to its former glory,” De Peiza said.
Meanwhile, Stevens said the Trust has been concerned about the state of the historic building which he said has been left to rot and the organisation has been lobbying for an intervention to stop it from falling apart.
He noted since the fire at the residence some years ago, there was a need for it to be restored now before it gets any worse.
“We got nothing from the building for decades and here is a possible solution that would bring the building back into service. If this is the only way that something is going to be done to save the building then at least it is better than nothing. It was the official residence of the Prime Minister and almost nothing has been done with the building since then and if we don’t do something the building will literally turn into dust. The track that the building was on is not a good track and at least it will now be saved.
Stevens said he was comforted that the building is being leased instead of sold to a foreign entity and is still owned by the Government. The BNT president said he cannot imagine that a charity of “that type would be going in to destroy” the building which holds significant value and importance to Barbadians.
He said the estimated $4 million price tag on restoration sounds accurate because of its size and current condition.
“But we should make no assumptions that the work will be done properly. It is still the property of the people and we need to ensure that whatever work is done to the building is done properly.
“They are releasing the building at a very good price so that means that they are putting a lot of money into the restoration of the building. It is going to cost good money to put it back together and if we couldn’t afford to do it well then find somebody who can afford to do it,” he said.
“It would have been nice if the national trust had that kind of money but we don’t. It is a pity that we have to go this route to save this building. The alternative is to watch the building rot to the ground and say ‘oh, it is 100 per cent ours” while it is crumbling to the ground.
“I understand Mr Prescod’s sentiments and it is a pity that we can’t fix our own problems but basically we should not be averse to taking assistance. We shouldn’t cut our nose to spoil our face, some things we can do for ourselves and some things we cannot do on our own,” Stevens added.
He also pointed out that there are several historic buildings around the island that are in dire need of attention but there is not enough money available to restore them. ([email protected])