Friday, April 19, 2024

Town planners want reform


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WARNING THAT THE EXISTING planning system “represents a cost and a hindrance to the country”, the Barbados Town Planning Society (BTPS) is lobbying for “immediate” changes.

BTPS, which is a non-profit association of town planning related professionals from the public and private sectors, has presented Government officials with “a prospectus for action” with recommendations including the establishment of a joint Planning Modernisation And Transparency Task Force.

But before that, the organisation wants authorities, including the Permanent Secretary Defence and Security and the Chief Town Planner, to take a number of short term actions within a six-month period from August.

The measures BTPS wants implemented as an immediate solution to its transparency and modernisation concerns include: a detailed weekly list of applications received and decisions made, meaningful quarterly performance statistics, implementation of reforms to the referral and review processes, use of email for statutory consultations about planning applications, and more consultation with interest groups including the Barbados National Trust.

They also want implementation of a protocol on conflicts of interest, an improved validation process for applications – requesting information early, a “streaming” system for “simple” and “complex” applications, implementation of a system of neighbour consultation on all planning applications, improved communications (email and voicemail) for Town & Country Development Planning Office staff, and an evidence-based approach to be required in the new Physical Development Plan.

More long-term recommendations included establishing the Planning Modernisation And Transparency Task Force, which BTPS said “should include members of the private and public sectors and have an independent chair”, and “work on a ‘task and finish’ basis with a limited life of 12 months”.

Its remit would be to “provide Barbados with a modern, transparent and efficient planning system suited to the needs of a Caribbean [small island developing state] at Barbados’ stage of development and going forward to meet those needs for the following 20 years”.

Giving the rationale for its proposals, BTPS said: “The present arrangements in Barbados are not open and this has a pernicious impact on the reputation of both the planning system and the planners involved in it. When the public does not know what is going on until well after the event this breeds suspicion about the fairness and probity of the system. Openness and transparency would have a positive reputational impact on the planners and the politicians involved.

“BTPS is realistic in understanding that there are limits to how rapidly all the necessary reforms can be implemented, particularly in view of the current economic situation and available resources for public spending. However, BTPS is firmly of the view that the present state of affairs itself represents a cost and a hindrance to the country. Something has to be done quickly to start of the process of improvement.”

It added: “BTPS recognises that some improvements are already being discussed or are in the pipeline. However, experience suggests that these things are taking too long and may not come to fruition. The reform process needs to be speeded up. It should be recognised that time is running out and that complacency is the biggest threat. We are in danger of being left behind. But to make really significant progress needs commitment all round – politicians, civil servants, planners, other professionals, and the private sector.”


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