Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Public vs private property rights

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IT WILL COME as a surprise to many citizens of Barbados that the Crown in the exercise of the authority of the Government of this island owns no land (except underlying the territorial waters surrounding the coast) which has not been lawfully acquired either by seizure, vesting, dedication, private treaty or compulsory acquisition duly designated for the public purpose approved by resolution of Parliament in accordance with provisions of the Town & Country Planning Act.

Barbados was settled as a commonwealth of freeholders where every acre was privately owned.

In those colonies settled by conquest, property rights were derived from Crown grants.

Reserves of those grants were as Crown lands, a virtual land bank dedicated to uses assigned by the Crown.

The insistent campaign for the preservation of vistas and access to beaches and the sea (which remarkably does not extend to the harbour as public property) as a “freeness” presumes a non-existent pre-eminence of public right over private property in Barbados; except where provision has been made for the acquisition of that right by payment of compensation to the entitled landowner.

In that context, the Town & Country Planning Act is paradoxical.

It expropriates without payment of compensation, all future use rights from the land owner’s title, and then charges a fee for application to recover a modification of that future use right in satisfaction of the provisions of the allocation of uses in a Development Plan approved by Parliament (like buying back stolen property).

More remarkable still is the lack of public interest as a stimulant of the representative legislature in the framing and execution of the Development Plan according to law.

LEONARD ST. HILL

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