EPD Gearing Up To Remove Derelict Houses

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The Environmental Protection Department (EPD) is preparing to launch a programme for the removal of derelict buildings between May and June this year.

Owners of buildings damaged during the passage of Tropical Storm Tomas in 2010, who are desirous of carrying out repairs, should write to the EPD requesting a stay of execution.

Senior Environmental Officer, Trevor King, said that buildings were investigated by the EPD to determine if they were derelict. He explained that the EPD categorised a derelict building as structurally unsound, abandoned, dilapidated or unoccupied. These buildings could harbour rodents and other vermin causing discomfort to the general public.

Between January and December 2009, a total of 209 buildings were removed, and 107 for the same period last year, he disclosed.

"…For a derelict building, the owner is notified by letter giving 21 days from the date of the notice to demolish the building. After 21 days, a list of derelict buildings is published in the newspapers, giving owners an additional 14 days to adhere to the notice," Mr. King said.

However, EPD Director, Jeffrey Headley, explained that the department also faced a number of challenges before a building could be demolished.

Among those challenges is the fact that under the Health Services Act, the department is required to serve notice to the owner of the land, who may not necessarily be the owner of the building.

"That is a challenge because, sometimes, the owner [of the land] cannot get the person they rent [to] removed from the land, and the department cannot remove the house unless the owner of the building gives permission," he said, noting that the onus was then placed on the landowner to serve notice to the home owner even though the building might be derelict.

The EPD officials explained that such challenges were the primary reasons why notices were published in the newspapers to alert owners of buildings and land owners that action was being taken against their structures.

Another challenge faced by the department was the removal of derelict buildings still being occupied. "A requirement is that we cannot remove a building despite how bad it is, if someone resides in it," he stressed.

Mr. Headley explained that the law required the EPD to approach the National Assistance Board and seek assistance for those persons before attempting to demolish the house.

He said the department also advised people about the dangers of their living conditions and of the need to find alternative accommodation.

The Director also expressed concern that members of the public did not fully understand what was a historic building.

"You have some buildings in Barbados that are in very bad condition, and the EPD cannot demolish them because of their historic nature," he added, noting that such structures bore the symbol of the Barbados National Trust.

Such buildings, Mr. Headley explained, could only be removed from the list of Historic Buildings by the Chief Town Planner in consultation with the Prime Minister for demolition or for other reasons.

julia.rawlins-bentham@barbados.gov.bb

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