About a third of the 3500 building applications which are sent to the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) yearly for approval contain insufficient information.
This disclosure has come from Chief Building Officer at EPD, Sylvan Catwell, who said the documents could not be processed until the Department requested and received additional information from the developer or his agent.
EPD enforces the Health Services Act, Cap 44 and Regulations related to building development control. The Chief Town Planner is required to forward all applications for the construction, extension or material alteration of a building to the Department for independent review and approval.
Mr. Catwell noted that while some issues were major, others were “simple” for example under ventilation, waste water disposal issues and people not indicating where the disposal systems would be located.
“There are some simple issues that architects and draughtsmen need to be reminded of for us to get the process going quicker. We want them to familiarise themselves with the Health Services Regulation and call the department so we can answer any concerns they may have in relation to the interpretation of this regulation,” he stated.
EPD recently hosted a half-day seminar on building healthy structures for architects, engineers, building contractors, draughtsmen and potential home owners.
Deputy Director of the Department, Anthony Headley, agreed that persons involved in the industry should acquaint themselves with the Health Services Act, stating that it would mitigate the waiting period, which is usually four to six weeks for residential applications and a longer period for commercial and industrial establishments.
Mr. Headley pointed out that some of the applications he saw had no supportive information to facilitate accurate interpretation of the plans. “At times when we go in to do investigations, post application stage, we recognise that material alterations have been made. Under the existing regulations, basically, you are not to make material alterations that are significant that can have effects on the healthy state of a building, without informing the Minister of Health. We are the agents of the Minister of Health and hence, we need to know when these things are being done to ensure that they comply with the Health Services Act,” he emphasised.
He said there were other environmental issues that were of concern to EPD and he listed some of them as the establishment of auto-body mechanic shops, animal husbandry facilities and the installation of generators. He added that it was hoped that through dialogue, pollution and nuisance issues which were created by those types of development could be avoided, thereby resolving the problems at the planning stages, while trying to minimise the impact of development on surrounding districts and the employees working within particular institutions.
The Deputy Director pointed out that for a commercial establishment, the developer would need to know what to do to ease the impact of pollutants on employees and persons who live adjacent to the business.
Highlighting a laundry, for example, he said that his department would require a number of specifics, including what equipment would be used, where it would be located, the means of ventilation and the extraction rates.
In the case of a more intensive industry, Mr. Headley explained the Department would need to know what chemicals would be used, how they would be stored, what type of waste would be produced from the process, in what volumes and how it would be managed.
He stated that commercial and industrial applications were reviewed in light of not only the Health Services Act, but certain other pieces of legislation, including the Marine Pollution Control Act, which seeks to protect the marine environment.
So, as the EPD presses ahead to ensure that the progressive development of land is organised to promote and preserve the health of the inhabitants and environment of this island, Barbadians are being encouraged to play their part by ensuring that the necessary information is attached to their plans when being submitted for approval. Remember – insufficient details on the application translate to a delay in starting that dream home or finalising that commercial or industrial building!