What Every Developer Needs To Know About Town Planning Law in Barbados
In Barbados, town planning law is regulated by the Town and Country Planning Act and its related rules. This Act defines development as:
- carrying out building, engineering, mining or other operations in, on over or under any land,
- making any material change in the use of any buildings or land, or
- subdivision of any land.
Development can legally occur either:
- by a specific grant of permission from the chief town planner or the minister responsible for planning; or
- through pre-approved “permitted development” as recognized under the town planning rules.
Most real estate developments in Barbados require a grant of specific permission.
The Town and Country Development Planning Office (TCDPO) is the government department responsible for managing all applications for development. One of the tools used in assessing applications is the Physical Development Plan. The Physical Development Plan zones the island into specific areas in which certain types of development may be permitted and other types prohibited. A developer should be aware of the Physical Development Plan and its implications to ensure that the land intended to be purchased can be used for the type of development envisaged.
Categories of land use mentioned in the 2003 Physical Development Plan include centres and mixed-use corridors, shopping centres, tourism areas, residential areas, major industrial areas, natural resource reserves, golf course development and rural settlements. The areas designated as centres and mixed centres include the national centre which is Bridgetown; regional centres like Speightstown, Holetown, Oistins and Six Roads; suburban centres like Warrens and Wildey; local centres like Hastings, Eagle Hall and Worthing; and mixed use corridors (where commercial, residential, institutional and tourist related development is permitted) like Collymore Rock, the south coast along Highway 7 and Bay Street.
A town planning consultant is often retained to assist and advise on the application to the TCDPO for permission to develop land.
All applications for development made to the chief town planner are accompanied by supporting documentation. An application for the development of either beachfront land or agricultural land over two acres is ultimately referred to the minister responsible for town planning.
Applications can be approved with or without conditions and if approved with conditions those conditions become a charge against the property and must be discharged by the owner to the chief town planner’s satisfaction. The chief town planner may issue a refusal to an application and if so the Act permits for the process of appeal that must be made within 28 days from the date the applicant receives the chief town planner’s decision.
Generally a developer cannot legally sell the lots in a development without being issued with a certificate of compliance discharging the conditions imposed.
Areas of concern for real estate developers:
Most applications to the TCDPO require a comment from other government departments and so permissions are seldom issued within the two-month period prescribed by the Act. The chief town planner can request further information from the applicant prior to the approval of any application and complex applications are carefully examined.
In order for a particular building to be classified as a “condominium”, a developer must comply with the Condominium Act in addition to the Town and Country Planning Act. All plans and drawings must be approved by the chief town planner and must be filed along with a declaration of condominium prior to any condominium units being sold or mortgaged as security for a loan.
The Coastal Zone Management Unit (“CZMU”) has to approve all plans for coastal development and is responsible for the management of coastal zone areas in Barbados.
Applications are referred by the Town and Country Planning Development Office to the CZMU when the development falls within the coastal zone management area. Detailed and exhaustive studies are undertaken by the CZMU designed to protect Barbados’ delicate coastal and marine ecosystem.
In addition, if any development is planned which may impact on any shoreline or marine area in Barbados (even if it is not in a coastal zone management area), an environmental impact assessment for development may be required by the TCPDO from the developer in order to determine how the development may affect the conservation and management of coastal resources.
Under the coastal zone management plan, there are areas which are designated for no development, such as parts of Ragged Point and Long Bay in the parish of Saint Philip and Archer’s Bay in the parish of Saint Lucy.
Where beachfront land is involved, the TCDPO may require the developer to provide public access to the beach, which will have to be to a standard acceptable to the TCDPO and will have to be maintained.
Many local purchasers seek financing from banks or other lending institutions to facilitate their purchase. Most banks require security for their loan, which will usually be a mortgage over the property being purchased. A buyer cannot give a bank a mortgage on property until it is conveyed and usually prior to conveyance the developer must obtain a certificate of compliance from the chief town planner.
Where the development includes the sale of subdivided lots as well as the building of houses or town houses, the chief town planner may include in his permission a condition prohibiting the sale of the subdivided property until essential services such as roads, lighting and sewerage services are installed. Practically, most developers prefer to install roads towards the end of major construction in the development to limit damage to the new roads and curbs by heavy equipment and therefore a certificate will not be issued by the chief town planner until the services and buildings are completed.
The Town and Country Planning Act gives the minister responsible for town planning the power to make orders to preserve trees or woodlands in any part of the island. The minister or chief town planner may prohibit the removal of certain trees in the proposed development or grant permission to cut down existing trees but order that new trees be replanted in specified areas of the development. This can alter the proposed layout of the development and additional costs and delays may be incurred if the developer has to redesign a development to take these conditions into account.
Ponds, Lakes & Pools
A developer who wishes to put in manmade ponds, lakes or pools should be aware that TCDPO may impose strict conditions to prevent flooding onto adjacent lots. The TCDPO may also require a large developer whose project includes several water features to provide a plan showing how the water to support these will be provided, and to provide for disposal of chlorinated water.
As part of the conditions subject to which permission for development is granted, the chief town planner requires plans setting out the detailed infrastructure of the development including the installation of utilities, the gradient of the roads, the installation of a drainage system, parking, and sidewalks.
Where possible a developer purchasing land for development should negotiate with the vendor to purchase it subject to acceptable TCDPO approval for the proposed development. This will protect the developer should the requirements of the chief town planner make the project financially impracticable.
The Act provides that if any development occurs without permission or any of the conditions subject to which the permission was given are not satisfied the chief town planner might serve an enforcement notice. This notice can give a time period for the developer to satisfy the requested conditions or in the case of unapproved development require the developer to take the necessary steps to fall within town planning law. Failure to adhere to this notice can lead to a fine or imprisonment. The Act also provides that the chief town planner, or any one authorized by him, may enter the premises and at the expense of the owner take the necessary steps to correct the violation.
Castles in the Sun
With good legal counsel and the advice of a competent town planning consultant a developer can successfully meet the requests of the TCDPO.
Prepared for Terra Caribbean’s The Red Book 2009 : Pink Pages by : Clarke Gittens Farmer is a commercial law firm, providing legal services for both domestic and international corporate and private clients. The firm has a reputation for high quality work in property, banking, corporate, commercial and business law areas. The firm is the Barbados member of Lex Mundi, the world’s leading association of independent law firms. The information provided in this article is not comprehensive and is not intended to constitute professional legal advice.