Chief Town Planner, Mark Cummins, has denied that his department is holding up major projects because of ???town planning bureaucracy???.
He was responding to charges from the private sector that major projects were being stalled because of the Town and Country Development Planning Office.
However, in a wide-ranging press briefing yesterday, Mr. Cummins emphasised that the Town Planning Department was facilitating the planning process in a timely fashion.
He disclosed that the Department took the initiative last year to meet with the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry on a quarterly basis to ensure that any concerns were flagged.
???We asked them to set the agenda and bring any issues which were being experienced by their membership to the table so we could discuss them. We had two meetings last year and in my view no major issues were brought to the table. For this year, I wrote to the President [Lalu Vaswani] inviting him to continue the forum; they responded and agreed. We were scheduled to have a meeting last week, but, at their request, it was postponed and we are scheduled to have a meeting on Tuesday [today], yet to be confirmed,??? he stated.
The Chief Town Planner identified the new Cruise Terminal, the Marina at Bay Street, the Bushy Park Development Project, a waste-to-energy plant, and a housing development at the Ridge, Christ Church as some of the projects his department was currently working on.
Acknowledging that they were at various stages of advancement, he continued: ???The new Cruise Terminal is in its final stages; we also have an application for the Marina at Bay Street, [and] we are waiting on the developers for information to move that process forward.
There is the Bushy Park Development where we are working very closely with the developers to move that process forward in order to allow Barbados to meet a major tourism commitment around the middle of May. And, very shortly, we will be asking them to stage public meetings for the traffic and park assessment and the social impact assessment.
???We are currently reviewing an application for a waste-to-energy plant by the Sanitation Service Authority??? [and] the Environmental Impact Assessment was submitted last week. We are in the process of working very closely with the Barbados Cane Industry Corporation for a single factory option at Andrews. There will also be development at the Ridge, Christ Church for the erection of 749 houses and within the last three weeks we had a meeting with the developer and there is another meeting scheduled; again we are trying to move the process forward.???
Mr. Cummins said he was ???very satisfied??? that the Town Planning Department was working closely with the developers, not only on those large projects, but meeting persons about other proposals even though the applications had not yet been submitted. ???But, we have been giving them advice, namely, Sandals [resort], we had at least two meetings with them and I am advised that the application is coming in later this week,??? he disclosed.
He maintained that the department was always willing to improve its efficiency, and noted that the management and staff were endeavouring to ensure delivery of an even more timely planning service.
However, he underscored that planning required due diligence and due process and pointed out that there were certain procedures that must be followed.
???While I hear and understand what persons are saying in terms of speeding up [the process], the quality of information is critical and the quality of the decision that we make is also critical because any decision that we make??? [can] open the Crown to judicial review. We take particular pains in ensuring that the necessary due process is carried out,??? he stressed.
The Chief Town Planner disclosed that between January 2003 and October 2013, the department received 34,649 applications, completed 32,419 of them, gave planning permission for 29,130 and denied 3,289.
He added that of the applications received last year, 57 per cent of them were completed within four months. He explained that was below the 75 per cent target set by the department and revealed that an analysis would be undertaken to ascertain why there was a shortfall.