Saturday, April 13, 2024

EDITORIAL: Lynch school right for NGOs


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ABANDONED AND DERELICT BUILDINGS are blights on our landscape which need to be more swiftly addressed.Often these buildings are overrun by bush and become home for vermin, which then multiply and infest neighbouring households.And if vermin don’t take them over, thieves and other lawless elements, as well as vagrants and other displaced individuals, do. They then become the places that people in the community are scared to pass, day or night, as they fear being robbed or harassed.So even more than an eyesore, these buildings are a security concern, a fire hazard and health risk to neighbourhoods.The Environmental Protection Department (EPD) has been working assiduously to tackle this problem of abandoned and derelict buildings. With the cooperation of environmental health officers, EPD inspectors identify which buildings are indeed derelict and follow due process by identifying the owners and serving them notices as required by the Health Services Act. This act gives the owner or their agent 21 days to respond and fulfil the conditions outlined in the notice. If this time expires without any action being taken, the building is included on a list published in the Press, and becomes subject to demolition by a contractor registered with the EPD. The department is entitled to recover the cost of demolition from the owner.Not all derelict structures are demolished, though. The owner/agent may write to the EPD requesting a stay of execution. If there is a valid reason the structure should not be torn down, the stay would be granted, and the owner/agent given more time to carry out remedial action.This process allows for fairness and transparency of the EPD’s actions. However, their valiant efforts are compromised by their staff complement and workload, so they are making only a dent in this islandwide problem.With this in mind, the request to Government from the Barbados Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (BANGO) to use the abandoned Louis Lynch Secondary School as their headquarters should be seriously considered.It would put back in use a multimillion-dollar facility that was abandoned since 2006, after being plagued by environmental problems in 2005 when staff and pupils complained of burning eyes, itching skin and dizziness. However, the final report from the University of the West Indies’ scientists who conducted tests at the school said the building was safe enough to be used again if Government wanted. Though the property is said to be under 24-hour guard by Government security personnel to prevent vagrants moving in, this building on Whitepark Road, The City, which once housed nearly 800 children, has remained unused and deteriorating.With more than 1 000 NGOs here and no space large enough for them to meet in comfort, conduct some outreach activities and put on displays, providing a centrally located home for them would solve their challenge. It would also put brakes on the further deterioration of a building that can still be put to productive use. We don’t need any more derelict eyesores in this island, so allowing the Louis Lynch building to be used by NGOs – which are internationally recognised as being more efficient than governments in providing goods and services to the most marginalised in society – could prove to be the right fit.


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