Parliament has approved a new Physical Planning Development and Control Bill, without consultations with key stakeholders who will be affected by the new legislation.
That’s the claim being advanced by Leader of the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), Sen. Nazim Burke, following the passage of the Bill by Senators in the Upper House of Parliament last week Wednesday.
The bill seeks to provide for the orderly and progressive development of land, for the grant of permission to develop land, for the regulation of the construction of buildings and other related matters, to protect the natural and cultural heritage, and to repeal and replace the Physical Planning and Development Control Act, 2002.
Addressing the weekly NDC press conference in St. George’s last week Monday, the NDC Political Leader voiced support for the new law; however, contended that it was brought to Parliament without consultations being conducted by the government with the key stakeholders that would be affected by Physical Planning and Land Development Control.
“As far as we know this bill was not shared with the Grenada Bar Association to obtain its comments, it was not shared with the Engineers Association (Grenada Institute of Professional Engineers) or the Grenada Association for Architects or the Construction Association of Grenada (CAG)”, he said.
According to Sen. Burke, the bill was given to the Senators for their consideration only a few days before it was brought to the Upper House for debate.
“This Bill was passed in a very unfortunate way and we must register our concern that there was no genuine attempt to consult as the government claimed that it would do in order to make this happen,” he said.
Although Sen. Burke said the bill was a step in the right direction, however, he expressed the view that a “tremendous amount of work is needed to bring this bill to the level where it ought to be in the collective interest of our country.”
The NDC is taking issue with several aspects of the bill particularly “Section 23,” which gives the Line Minister the responsibility to decide whether or not an environmental assessment should be done before buildings are undertaken.
“The fact of the matter is you may never know whether an environmental impact assessment is warranted before you actually conduct the assessment and all of this is left for the minister to decide on his own accord”, he remarked.
Sen. Burke pointed out that the law makes provision for social impacts assessments to be done but is not satisfied with the time frame that is given.
“The law basically says that if you are given a permit … and if you don’t use it within the 365 days you would have to reapply for a new permit…we believe that the time is much too short and that people should be allowed a longer period of time in order to construct”, he said.
The Congress leader also referred specifically to “section 39” of the law, which makes provisions for our cultural heritage and heritage sites to be protected and preserved.
“This we see as a kind of backhand slap to the Grenadian people…after the government is offering for sale places like Camerhogne Park…parts of the Grand Etang Forest Reserve, and even a portion of Fort George may well be offered for sale”, he said.
Sen. Burke holds the view that the Constitution of Grenada must be amended with a schedule making provisions to protect the country’s cultural and heritage sites.
“It must include the Camerhogne Park, the Grand Etang Forest Reserves, the Slave Pens, Fedon’s Camp, Leapers Hill and all of the critical sites and places that we have of historical importance. They must be put into the constitution”, he said.
He pledged the NDC’s commitment to amend the Constitution once the opportunity presents itself to remedy the bill.
“We will amend the Constitution once we can secure the necessary majority in the Parliament, we will amend the Constitution so as to protect, preserve, our natural heritage,” Sen. Burke said.
Opposition Senator, Franka Bernadine who also attended the press conference added her voice of concerns over the bill.
“While we needed the bill, we are not satisfied that all aspects have been properly aired and that people have had an opportunity to put together the best possible environmental bill for Physical Planning and Developmental Control for Grenada”, she told reporters.