DAVID A. COMISSIONG, LLB (U.W.I) L.E.C (Hugh Wooding Law School)
4th August 2016
Mr. Mark Cummins
Chief Town Planner
Town and Country Development Planning Office
The Garrison, St. Michael
Re: The proposed construction of a 15 storey Hyatt Hotel at Carlisle Bay
I write to you in my capacity as a Citizen of Barbados.
As a result of news reports published in the Nation and Advocate newspapers of Wednesday 27th July 2016, I learnt that on Tuesday the 26th of July 2016 – Barbados’ “Day of National Significance” – Barbadian businessman Mark Maloney, Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy, Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler, and one Patrick Mc Cudden, senior Vice President of the American multi-national company known as Hyatts Hotel and Resorts, staged a so-called “signing ceremony” and informed the Barbadian people that in two months time Hyatts Hotel and Resorts and its local partner, Visions Development Inc. (Mr. Mark Maloney’s company), will be commencing the construction of a massive fifteen (15) storey hotel at Carlisle Bay, Lower Bay Street, within the precincts of the UNESCO designated world heritage site of historic Bridgetown and its Garrison, and abutting Barbadians’ beloved Browne’s Beach.
And subsequently, in the Wednesday 2rd August 2016 Editorial of the Nation Newspaper, I (and all other Barbadians) were informed by the Nation’s editorial writer that this project had received the “all-clear” from the relevant authority, and had met “a range of stringent stipulations, whether environmental or structural”.
As a result of the foregoing, I made my way to the Town and Country Development Planning Office on the afternoon of Wednesday 3rd August 2016 and asked to see the Public Register in which you are required (under Section 17 of the Town and Country Planning Act) to record information relating to applications for planning permission, “including information as to the manner in which such applications have been dealt with.”
As a result of perusing the Public Register I discovered that the relevant application for permission to erect the said hotel was filed by Visions Development Inc. on the 30th of March 2015, and that it bears application number 0445/03/2015B.
I also discovered that the section of the Public Register which deals with “Consultations” carried out in relation to the Application, and the section which records the “Decisions” made in respect of the said Application, were both BLANK !
So much then for the Nation Newspaper’s Editorial writer’s assertion that the project had met a range of stipulations and had received the “all-clear.”
(One is left to wonder why the Nation Newspaper has published such misleading information about this matter ! One is also left to wonder how Mark Maloney– in the presence of Ministers Sealy and Sinckler– could state that the construction of the hotel would DEFINITELY be starting in two months time! Clearly something is not right here ! )
Now, since it is clear that the “Consultation” process is not yet over, and that no decision has yet been made in relation to this application to erect a 15 storey Hyatt hotel at Carlisle Bay, I wish to draw the following to your attention :-
1) Some five (5) years ago I was approached by the prominent Barbadian business consultant who is behind this scheme of constructing “foreign brand-name hotels” in Carlisle Bay, and he informed me that Browne’s Beach is much too valuable an asset to be reserved for the Barbadian people, and that the plan is to construct five or six “foreign brand-name hotels” right across the length of Browne’s Beach.
2) Furthermore, during the 26th of July 2016 “signing ceremony”, Mr. Mark Maloney advised the Barbadian people that the massive 15 storey Hyatt hotel is just the beginning of a proliferation of new hotel development in Carlisle Bay!
3) Browne’s Beach is the central and extensive beach embedded in Carlisle Bay, and is an historic beach that is of tremendous value and service to the people of Barbados in general, and to the poor predominantly black working-class Barbadians who inhabit the many over-crowded, and in some cases slum-like, neighbouring communities of the City of Bridgetown and the greater St. Michael area. Indeed, for many impoverished and over-stressed working-class Barbadians Browne’s Beach is their place of refuge and relaxation, their natural spa and health clinic!
4) The construction of a massive 15 storey Hyatt hotel in Carlisle Bay (abutting Browne’s Beach) – to say nothing of the other 4 or 5 “foreign brand-name hotels” that are being planned for Browne’s Beach – is certain to destroy the very character of Browne’s Beach and to turn it into an “alien zone” in which the ordinary Barbadian no longer feels comfortable or welcome. In other words, we will run the risk of Browne’s Beach being transformed into one of your typical West Coast beaches – beaches that native Barbadians feel no longer belong to them.
5) There is also the issue of the height and size of the proposed Hyatt hotel. The highest building in Barbados is the Central Bank – a building that is some nine storeys tall. Is it really sensible to erect in Carlisle Bay, within the precincts of our UNESCO designated World Heritage site, an American hotel that will dwarf and dominate every other building in Bridgetown? Please bear in mind that this hotel will be more than one and a half times the height of the Central Bank of Barbados! Won’t it significantly undermine the World heritage status of historic Bridgetown and its Garrison?
6) And how do you engage in the type of deep and extensive pile-driving that will be required to construct a foundation for a towering 15 storey building without emitting vibrations that will do serious damage to such neighbouring historic buildings as the Bethel Methodist Church, St. Patrick’s Cathedral and St. Paul’s Anglican Church?
In light of the foregoing I am hereby requesting – nay, demanding – that this application for Town and Country Planning permission to construct this proposed 15 storey hotel be subjected to a most rigorous and comprehensive “Environmental Impact Assessment” procedure, inclusive of a “Social Impact Assessment” study.
I have learnt from the News Media that some consultations are on-going with the Barbados National Trust in relation to the implications of the proposed project for Bridgetown’s UNESCO world heritage site status.
However, what I am requesting goes way beyond such a narrowly based impact assessment!
I am requesting – first and foremost – that the people of the neighbouring communities be consulted in Town Hall meetings, and through relevant sociological surveys and assessments. And when I refer to “the neighbouring communities” I am referring to virtually all of the residential communities of the City of Bridgetown and southern St. Michael. I am also requesting that consultations be held with the churches and the various community groups and social clubs of the affected communities, as well as with the several environmental and heritage preservation organizations of Barbados.
I am also requesting serious and wide-ranging investigations of the possible dangers to other buildings in the vicinity of the proposed hotel, as well as an investigation into possible negative impacts on the aesthetics and amenities of the entire city of Bridgetown. ( And while you are at it, perhaps you can draw to the attention of your governmental colleague, the Chief Immigration Officer, the negative implications of the Hyatt Hotel’s vice- President’s bold assertion that ALL senior posts at the hotel will initially be filled by expatriates !)
And even through it may only be the opinion of one Citizen of Barbados, please permit me to state for the record that I am convinced that Barbados will be making a grave mistake if it permits such a priceless national asset as Browne’s beach to fall into the hands of foreign multi-national companies and to become the location of out-sized foreign-owned hotels, rather than to be reserved for indigenous Barbadian entrepreneurs and for locally owned hotels, guest houses and related facilities that fit snugly into the national environment, and that radiate the unique charm, culture and hospitality of Barbados and Barbadians!
It is with this conviction that I now hereby call upon you and the Town and Country Development Planning Office to engage in the Environmental Impact Assessment measures outlined and requested above in relation to the Town and Country Planning application reference number 0445/03/2015B.
I now look forward to hearing from you as a matter of urgency.
David A. Comissiong
P.S Please take note that in light of the dire implications that this matter has for the entire population of Barbados, I am taking the liberty of sharing the contents of this letter with my fellow citizens.