New Barbados Planning Act

When Prime Minister Mia Mottley was elected in May 2018 one of her first actions was to start a programme of radical planning reform.  The existing legislation was in its essence over 50 years old and pre-dated Independence.  It operated in a closed and opaque manner and was seen as being at risk of corruption as well as being tortuously slow.  The new Prime Minister stated that planning reform was “mission critical” as part of her overall programme to address the country’s economic problems and remove barriers to progress.

The Planning and Development Act 2019 aims to provide a system that is open, transparent, inclusive, accountable and efficient – fit for purpose in the context of a Small Island Developing State in the twenty-first century.  The legislation provides for a new Planning and Development Board that will consider complex applications while the majority will be delegated to the Chief Town Planner.  A new Appeals Tribunal is also being established.  Innovative elements include a “provisional refusal” to allow for extra negotiation and “approval in principle” at the concept stage (replacing the traditional outline consent which is planning permission in law).  The system is being opened up, with much more opportunity for public participation and public access to information.  The new Act was passed by both Houses of Parliament in January 2019.

We are proud to have helped this process.  We worked with other members of the Barbados Town Planning Society (BTPS) and Government to deliver two stakeholder events in July 2018.  The Prime Minister attended and spoke at both, showing how important she regards this reform.  We were then commissioned by the Prime Minister along with Dr Yolanda Alleyne of Ecoisle who is President of BTPS and Christine Toppin-Allahar who is a specialist planning and environmental lawyer with experience in reforming planning legislation across the Caribbean.  We helped prepare a Green Paper for consultation, drafted a White Paper and commented on the legal drafting by Christine.  We also helped present the proposals at a final stakeholder review (and on a radio call-in programme).

Remarkable progress has been made in a six month period.  However, the work is not finished yet.  The next stage is the drafting of a new Development Order, a new Use Classes Order and new Regulations to support the Planning and Development Act.  There is also a need for a major training and culture change programme to support implementation of the Act.  Ultimately, it is the change in working practices and attitudes that will be essential to making a success of the new system.

Kim and Sandy Penfold

February 2019