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FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH: The Hyatt saga


DR FRANCES CHANDLER, [email protected]

FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH: The Hyatt saga

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AT THE RISK OF BEING DEEMED “an enemy of the state”, I feel obligated to comment on the controversial Hyatt Hotel issue.

I’m sure most Bajans fully support the concept of a hotel in the general area selected for the proposed Hyatt, and would commend both private and public sector entities involved for trying to make the project a reality.

As a result of the relatively recent formation of the beautiful beach surrounding Carlisle Bay, the area from the proposed Hyatt site to the Pierhead is perfect for hotel/condominium development, and by extension, the revitalisation of Bridgetown proposed years ago by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

This type of development will also enhance the “UNESCO Site” as long as the new buildings are compatible with the scale of the surroundings and reflect a suitable Bajan/Caribbean architectural style.

But unfortunately, because of the small size of the site, the 15-storey height of the building and its unsuitable architectural style, the proposed Hyatt project doesn’t fit well in the area. Also, this proposed multistorey structure (tallest on the island) will be right on the shoreline, with no other structures to buffer the stark visual impact when viewed from anywhere in the Carlisle Bay area.

This is a major concern, and if it becomes a reality, will likely set a precedent that could lead to the very undesirable “Miami-nisation” of our “Beautiful Barbados”.

Wouldn’t it be better to purchase additional land along the shore down to the Pierhead so that a shorter, less intrusive building with a larger “buffer area” could be built, thus maintaining the character of Bridgetown?

The height of buildings along our West and South Coasts has always been restricted between five to seven storeys, but eight and ten storeys were allowed for the Radisson and Hilton hotels, so we can see the beginning of an undesirable trend – and the Hyatt is the limit.

That the authorities would permit a 15-storey, unsuitably designed monstrosity, on the shoreline of the island’s most beautiful beach and in the heart of the island’s only “UNESCO Site”, is baffling and disappointing.

Furthermore, although modern methods exist for building foundations, knowledgeable persons are concerned about a building of that height being constructed so near the shoreline.

Also, based on the damage done to nearby structures during the pile-driving for the then “Holiday Inn”, damage to other buildings, especially old ones like the Empire Theatre and Bethel Church, is a real possibility. Such considerations should form part of a mandatory environmental assessment study.

Our shoreline, particularly the West Coast, was spoiled before we had a Town Planning Department to regulate construction. Obviously it would’ve been better to have a road along the shoreline with buildings placed inland, but it’s too late for that now.

Since we now have a Town Planning department, we would expect to have better planning and more consistent decisions. For instance, what is the basis for allowing a house to be built on a water course in Cattlewash when bodies like the Coastal Zone Management Unit (CZMU) were allegedly not in agreement?

Again, in Cattlewash, there’s the construction of a stone house on the site of a demolished wooden house, but extending much further on to the beach.

Can Town Planning say if they’ve changed the regulation regarding replacement buildings along the sea side of the Ermie Bourne Highway having to be located on “the footprint” of those demolished? Has the CZMU approved this construction?

Then, in Christ Church, there’s the case of a four-storey (eight-condominium) building allegedly being refused in 2009, yet a five-storey (42-room) hotel is currently being built on the same site.

Those who try to defend questionable projects like the Hyatt, with the flippant phrase “that’s the price of progress”, demonstrate a callous attitude to present and future development of our island, and ignore the fact that the “price” will be impossible to control once the precedenthas been set. I can assure you, present and future generations of Bajans and visitors won’t be impressed.

I realise that Hyatt is one of the “chickens” Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler keeps “counting before they’re hatched” in his effort to convince us that Government has solutions to our problems, but jobs and foreign exchange can’t be the only considerations when making national decisions.

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

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