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EDITORIAL: Time to nip illegal signage in the bud


EDITORIAL: Time to nip illegal signage in the bud

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The decision of the Town and Country Development Planning Office to crack down on illegal signage across Barbados is absolutely necessary and long overdue. It would appear that in recent years our national inclination towards orderly development has been quickly disappearing, and one of the most pronounced indications of this has been the proliferation of illegal signs around the country.

It appears that once you decide you have a product or a service to sell, you can just grab a brush, a few pints of paint and a piece of plywood, and the entire country is yours, waiting to be plastered. And it does not matter if it is a highway or back road, a utility pole or the trunk of a coconut tree.

If you clean grease traps, sell food from a tent at the side of your home, operate the village hardware store or have a talent in the area of hair dressing, once you have selected your spot for signage, it does not matter whose land you are on, or if your erection blocks legitimate road signs that are designed to keep unsuspecting motorists from killing or maiming others – just get your hammer and nails and you are set.

However, if it is used cars you are selling, it is now clear that you don’t have to stop at the illegal and often ugly signs. You can park between half a dozen and a dozen vehicles at the side of the road and leave them unattended until the grass reaches the door handles.

For years we Barbadians had taken pride from the fact that our streets were not littered with product signs and billboards – so much so that the integration of those along the ABC and Ronald Mapp Highways associated with the Adopt-A-Kilometre beautification programme was subjected to a planning process that makes the signs unobtrusive.

But we can compare them with the red, green, black, blue – and every other colour or combination of colours possible – direction or destination signs stuck on utility poles around  the country pointing to almost every last private tourist attraction there is on the island.

In fact, there are places in St Thomas, St George and St Peter where close to a dozen of these signs can be found on some poles. We are sure many will advance arguments ranging from “the poor black man” to “they are not hurting anybody”. But they are an eyesore, and time and again it has been proven that when a community turns a blind eye to small infractions, much bigger infractions become acceptable soon after.

“Who needs permission to erect a sign?” soon will become: “Why should I need permission to add another room to my house so I can sell food and drinks or operate a karaoke bar from sunset until sunrise?”

We have no difficulty with the suggestion by planning consultant Richard Gill that perhaps the time has come for a review of the regulations governing the erection of such signs, and perhaps even a relaxation of those rules. Societies evolve and therefore the rules governing them should as well.

But we need to cultivate an environment in which we respect those rules, regardless of what they say, and if there is a need to pressure authorities for change, there are recognised civil ways of achieving that, but this proliferation of illegal signs that appear as nothing less than ugly graffiti on our landscape must be halted.

The Town and Country Development Planning Office has our support.