A Legal Challenge to the HYATT HOTEL is Looming
Submitted DAVID A. COMISSIONG,Citizen of Barbados
During his presentation in the Budget debate, Minister Donville Inniss claimed that the Chief Town Planner had already dealt with and given approval (“with conditions”) to an application to construct a 15 storey Hyatt Hotel at Carlisle Bay. (I,personally, harbour serious doubts about this, and I hope that the Chief Town Planner will soon issue a public statement and clear the air about this matter,)
The Minister also claimed that some of the conditions attached to the Chief Town Planner’s approval were being appealed against, and that the appeal was being addressed “at the highest level”. ( Just imagine that! They are appealing against “conditions” allegedly imposed by the Chief Town Planner! And one assumes that the phrase “at the highest level” refers to the Prime Minister Barbados – Mr Freundel Stuart.)
Mr Inniss also claimed that an “Environmental Impact Assessment”, a heritage impact assessment, a traffic study, a geotechnical survey, a marine survey and a geophysical survey were all carried out, as part of the processing of the said application.
It is against the background of these surprising and expansive claims that I would now like to draw the following matters to the attention of Minister Inniss and the people of Barbados:-
(1) Sections 17 and 18 of the Town and Country Planning Act, Chapter 240 of the Laws of Barbados stipulate that – “The Chief Town Planner shall keep, in such manner as may be prescribed, a register containing such information as may be prescribed, with respect to applications for planning permission made to him, including information as to the manner in which such applications have been dealt with”…… and …….. “Every register kept …..shall be available for inspection by the public at all reasonable hours”.
(2) As recently as Wednesday 3rd August 2016 (some 8 days after Mr Mark Maloney publicly declared that he would be beginning construction of the Hyatt Hotel in two months time) I visited the Town and Country Planning Office , consulted the Public Register, and discovered that Visions Development Inc. (Mark Maloney’s company) had filed the relevant application on 30th March 2015 under reference number 0445 / 03 / 2015B, and that the section of the Public Register which deals with “Consultations” carried out in relation to the application, as well as the section which records the “Decisions” made in respect of the said Application, were both BLANK!
(I would urge members of both the News Media and the Barbadian public to go to the Town and Country Planning Office and scrutinize the Public Register for themselves. BU emphasis)
(3) A legitimate “Environmental Impact Assessment” (EIA) CANNOT be carried out in secret – unknown to the Barbadian public– and without the participation and input of the people of Barbados , particularly the participation and input of the people who reside in the communities closest to and most affected by the proposed hotel! And to the best of my knowledge, information and belief, the people of Barbados were never given public notice of and invited to participate in any Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) pertaining to the proposed 15 storey Hyatt Hotel! Indeed, not even one single Town Hall meeting has been held about this matter!
(4) The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) outlines the critical role of public participation in an Environmental Impact Assessment(EIA) as follows:-
“Public involvement is a cornerstone of the EIA process. A requirement to make information available to the concerned public and seek their views and comments helps ensure that EIA procedures are implemented in an open, transparent and accountable manner. Public scrutiny also encourages the preparation of robust and defensible EIA studies and reports. In addition, information and inputs from the public have proven useful at various steps in the EIA process, including scoping, impact identification, examination of alternatives and planning of mitigation measures. Finally, the inclusion of public views and comments in the decision-making process promotes equitable and informed choice……… At a minimum, the EIA process should provide for public notification, disclosure of information on a proposal, access to EIA documentation and comment by affected and interested parties on scoping and EIA reports. In addition, the procedures for public consultation should allow for all interested and affected parties to express their views. EIA procedures for implementing public involvement in accordance with international good practice will emphasize “active” rather that “passive” engagement of stakeholders, beginning early in the process of continuing throughout.”
The people of Barbados in general, and the people and organizations of the Bridgetown and Bay Street communities in particular, must therefore be fully informed about the proposed project, and must be afforded an opportunity to participate fully in an Assessment of its likely or potential impacts on such issues as Barbadians’ continued access to and enjoyment of the beach; implications for the animal, plant and marine life of the beach; Bridgetown’s designation as a UNESCO world heritage site; issues pertaining to sewage disposal, possible damage to neighbouring buildings, and urban congestion; and its implications for the overall environmental well-being of the City of Bridgetown.
As a result of the foregoing, I now hereby put Mr Donville Inniss and Mr Mark Maloney on notice that any effort to commence construction of a massive 15 storey Hyatt Hotel at Carlisle Bay without subjecting the proposal to a rigorous and comprehensive LEGITIMATE Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) that provides for suitable notification of and input by the people of Barbados will, in all likelihood, be met with a challenge in the Law Courts of Barbados .