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Town Planning In The Bahamas
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Posted by:Jun 24th 2006, 05:33:42 pm
Fig Tree News TeamTown Planning in the Bahamas
by Andrew Allen,

At a town meeting some two months ago on the question of the proposed Wendyfs restaurant at Cable Beach, residents of the area left both their MP and the owner of Wendyfs in no doubt about their opposition to the plan.

They also made clear their frustration with a licensing process that seems insensitive (to say the least) to the views and interests of those that will be affected by the outcome of its decisions.

Two months on and residents are no closer to knowing how approval (albeit provisional) could have been given to a project that will so adversely affect their area, and for which they were given no opportunity for consultation.

While some have questioned why Cable Beach or Delaporte deserves any special exemption from the invasive commercialisation that is generally consuming this island, they miss the point.

Far from offering a contrast with the opening of other Wendyfs locations, there are in the attitudes of westerners today echoes of many of the points raised by residents in many other communities, including Twynam and Mackey Street.

In fact, Twynam is a good example of what residents in the west are fighting to prevent. The vermin, noise and unsavory elements that invariably accompany fast-food establishments in New Providence are now part of the daily life of a once-peaceful and pleasant semi-suburban community.

What the people of Cable Beach and Delaporte want and expect is not some special or privileged treatment, but rather the same rights and considerations due all of us who must share this small, crowded island. Fundamental among these is an effective voice in the process whereby commercial and residential interests are balanced.

In the case of the Twynam location, the absence of an accountable municipal authority, rather than the business owner himself, is to blame for the unfortunate outcome. Instead of a representative municipal body, local licensing decisions are taken by a secretive process presided over by bureaucrats.

The outcome ultimately affects both homeowners (by potentially impacting their house values and quality of life) and business owners (who invest sometimes millions on their premises pending a decision only to find their application declined at times). In the case of the Twynam location, as in the present furore at cable Beach, it has been residents who have had the most at stake.

But far more than Twynam, this latest Wendyfs application for Cable Beach is a classic demonstration of the unaccountability of licensing in New Providence. Whereas in the case of the Twynam location, the site was in the midst of an area that was already substantially commercialized on all but one side, the Cable Beach location is entirely residential, with three adjacent properties undergoing either recent or current renovations.

Moreover (and most troubling of all) it appears that, on at least two prior occasions, application had been made for a Wendyfs on the exact site and refused! In the interim between those refusals and the present provisional approval the area has undergone substantial residential and touristic upgrade, with the Marley property in particular@being developed into an upmarket resort and spa.

That someone with decision-making authority chooses now as the time to approve the location of a fast-food restaurant for the area is a cause for concern in itself, which has been compounded by the response of some of the bureaucrats contacted by residents (which calls to mind a popular song by K.B.).

Now that the residents of the area have made their views known both to their parliamentary representative, and to the relevant minister, Bradley Roberts, it is to be hoped that those who are accountable to the public (elected representatives) exercise their ultimate power to reverse a bad decision taken by those who are not.


Politicians of all stripes would have done well to heed the contribution by St. Margarets MP Pierre Dupuch to the budget debate last week.

Mr. Dupuch called for an end to the tendency of many of our leaders to behave as though they regard Bahamians as second-class citizens when it comes to world affairs and foreign relations.

His comments are particularly welcome at a time when opposition politicians are coming under temptation to make political capital at the expense of governmentfs correctly neutral policy in matters related to Cuba, China and Venezuela, countries that have all had strained relations with our closest and most important neighbour, the United States, and yet all hold prospects of real trade benefit to the Bahamas.

While many would present to Bahamians the idea that we do not need a real foreign policy independent of the US (an idea under-girded by a powerful subliminal notion of national inferiority present among politicians of the present generation) Mr. Dupuch rightly ridiculed the notion of a sovereign country taking instructions from anyone on its foreign policy.

It helps that Mr. Dupuch kept his comments moderate and did not get drawn into US-bashing in order to make his points.

But perhaps most helpfully, coming from the son of the well-respected (and American-born) matriarch of an established Bahamian family, Mr. Dupuchfs comments must benefit from an added presumption: that they are not the hateful skulking of some anti-American firebrand, but the free, uncompromised thoughts of a Bahamian with no hint of inferiority, and with an understanding of what it means to be independent.

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