Many commentators compare us with the likes of Singapore, Taiwan with respect to our economic development and invariably our failure to develop is placed on the ineffectiveness of our governance...
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Tewarie: New building codes coming soon
Planning Minister Dr Bhoe Tewarie says Government is moving apace to pass and enact legislation for the adoption and implementation of revised building codes in T&T. The Planning and Facilitation of Development Bill has already been laid in Parliament and was debated on January 14. It was then sent to the Senate Select Committee for revision.
“A lot of the buildings which exist in T&T never came before Town and Country Planning when we look at the country as a whole. Many buildings just went up. They never applied for permission and we have had a situation in which you get permission, but you make your own variations without coming back for permission. There are situations in which the permission you are granted and what you actually construct . . . the gap is so wide that it is almost laughable.
“So hopefully with this Bill we are going to be able to bring some order and system to T&T and have the capability for enforcement that will allows us to have well managed–under enlightened terms and conditions and forward thinking–good development in T&T,” he said.
Tewarie added: “The Planning and Facilitation of Development Bill is a very important Bill and a very important change from what we were working under which is the National Physical Development Plan of 1984 and the Town and Country Planning Act of 1969. The words ‘facilitation of developing’ is very important. It really is a Bill that looks at development in the context of enlightenment, land use policy and planning, and really focuses on the business of planned and organised, sensible and tasteful development.”
Getting residential and commercial property developers to comply with new construction guidelines was not the only priority for the minister and the agencies under his purview, however.
The Planning Ministry will conduct soil tests across the country that would inform technocrats which areas should be zoned earthquake prone and agricultural. “The micro-zonation study really looks at about ten areas of the country, in terms of the likelihood or disposition to earthquakes and that will allow us to make some decisions about building codes in those particularly more susceptible areas. We are taking this business of building codes seriously.
“As you know, we have strengthened construction possibilities in the urban footprint that is now strong in T&T, as well as some other areas of the country that we sense are in growth mode in terms of population growth. And, therefore we have created the conditions in which people can do multi-family residences,” Tewarie said. He added: “We have increased the density or the options for density in these areas. In addition, we deal on a case by case basis for multiple storey buildings and more complex development.
“We are doing more to move people in the direction of things like solar (energy) and great strategies for construction and design of buildings and developments (and) rain water harvesting. Those things are very, very important to us, together with the building code issue. And this is the direction in which we are going to be moving with the Planning and Facilitation of the Development Bill.” The drafting of legislation which was now before the LRC follows an estimated 11 consultations held as a result of keen public interest on the topic.
Ideas coming out of these discussions also led to the preparation of a document that dealt with the need for a spatial strategy. “We see this as a work in progress. You have a spatial strategy now, but every three years, we will revise the spatial strategy and we are committed to that,” the minister said.
The construction industry grew by three per cent last year, said Tewarie. He described this as “pretty good” considering the slowdown in energy sector because of the down time of some of the plants at State-owned Petrotrin. “When we take into account that the non-energy sector growth was about 1.9 per cent, construction sector grew by about three per cent. And if you drive around Port-of-Spain, you will see a number of buildings now under construction.
These building are at the stage of near completion or have just started. These things are happening all over the country. I mentioned Port-of-Spain because this is where we are.