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FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH: Architechural concerns

Dr Frances Chandler, [email protected]

FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH: Architechural concerns

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ON WEDNESDAY, February 24, the Front Page of the Nation newspaper carried a full page picture of what was described as an artist’s impression of a proposed Hyatt Hotel to be constructed at Lower Bay Street, and the accompanying headline read Awaiting Green Light. Businessman Mark Maloney was quoted in a related article in the same newspaper as saying, “hopefully any day now we will be able to get the go”.

The building depicted in the picture is a typical unappealing Miami-styled structure that bears no relevance to Barbadian /Caribbean architecture, heritage or culture, and appears to be more than ten storeys high. The article further notes that the hotel would transform the Bridgetown landscape. It certainly would, but not in a positive way.

Amazingly, Mr Maloney expects to “get the go” to construct this monstrosity right in the heart of the UNESCO heritage site Historic Bridgetown And Its Garrison, despite the fact that the Barbados Turf Club has been denied permission to install a few light poles at the Garrison Savannah to facilitate night racing, because the Savannah is within the same heritage site.

Where is the logic behind this? Will the authorities consider the green light more appropriate in Bridgetown and the red light (no pun intended) more appropriate at the Garrison? Will an explanation be forthcoming?

I note with interest the following information relating to our UNESCO World Heritage Site: “Becoming a world heritage site will not forbid Barbadians to build in this area. It is possible to build, providing the new buildings are compatible with the existing architecture . . . and the architectural plans are in keeping with the style of the surrounding historical buildings in the area.

“Every five years Barbados will be asked to prepare a state of conservation report to UNESCO and Barbados will be closely monitored to ensure Bridgetown and the historical Garrison area are preserved.” Can the proposed Hyatt Hotel pass this test? And what does the National Trust, which I believe participated in the UNESCO process, have to say about this?

On a similar subject, I have wondered for some time now how Government can allow foreign so called “investors” to deface our landscape with half-built buildings and seemingly disappear without a trace. Do the relevant authorities not do due diligence before they give permission to these people or are other considerations more important?

We saw the Harlequin group start two projects in Barbados a few years ago, the most visible one being that on the South Coast. Much time (and money) was spent demolishing what appeared to be a perfectly good structure. Then the replacement building was left as an unfinished blotch on our coastline. Rumour has it that a local businessman who finds himself in the news quite often these days has purchased it and is currently bulldozing much of the old structure .

Of course, what would be best is if it was left as a window to the sea, a rare beast these days, but failing that, let’s hope that the replacement will blend in with the landscape and not stick out like a sore thumb as the proposed Hyatt promises to do.

Similarly, “Maple Manor”, a house situated opposite the Hastings Rocks, which as far as I remember was listed by the National Trust, was destroyed and construction of a building with absolutely no character was begun on the site some four or five years ago. This structure which appears to many people to be too close to the road to comply with Town Planning regulations, has created a major obstruction to the view of those living in the nearby condominiums and has considerably devalued those properties.

After about a year, it was alleged that there were problems with the foundation, the strength of the concrete and various other aspects of the construction work. We heard that a court case was pending and that the structure would have to be demolished. Now we hear that the property has been bought by a local businessman and all of a sudden it’s alleged that none of these “problems” is any longer of concern and the structure can remain.

We, the public, are seeking enlightenment on all these matters. We aren’t willing to be kept in the dark and then find that projects are a “fait accompli”.

Dr Frances Chandler is a former Independent senator. Email [email protected]