Within recent months we have seen much discourse on the role of the Development Control Authority (DCA). Many, and I dare say even the St Lucia National Trust (SLNT) seem unaware of the provisions of the physical planning and development act. I believe in research; I believe in being aware of what the law says, and I believe that discussions should always be centred on truth.
With that in mind, I wanted to highlight ten facts that most people are unaware, concerning the operation of the DCA Checklist_Fees within the planning and development act.
FACT # 1 – Duty of the minister responsible for planning.
Section 4 states that the minister shall secure consistency and continuity in the administration of the Act in accordance with the object and purposes of the Act. It, therefore, means that if there is inconsistency and thus failure to properly apply the law, then the minister has failed in his constitutional responsibility.
FACT # 2 – No one can start any development without written permission of the DCA.
Section 16 is clear in outlining that no one shall commence or carry out the development on any land in Saint Lucia without the prior written permission of the DCA. This provision is flouted every day in Saint Lucia, with certain developers either believing that their interface with the political directorate has empowered them to proceed without permission. No minister, not even the prime minister has the authority to grant permission to start work without the written permission of the DCA.
FACT # 3 – There is a Schedule 4 listing matters that require an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA).
Under Section 22 (2) an Environmental Impact Assessment is required in respect of an application for development falling under the category stated in Schedule 4. The Schedule includes hotel development, residential developments, coastal zone developments and developments in sensitive environmental areas. Developments such as CABOT and the project in Soufriere that has attracted recent attention would have required an EIA as part of the approval process. That is the law.
FACT # 4 – Cabinet could determine an application only if all documents required by the DCA have been submitted.
Under Section 25 (1) the minister responsible for planning can give directions in writing to the DCA that a particular application or all applications of a particular class or in respect of a particular area shall be referred to the Cabinet for determination. However, there is a caveat to such happening. The Cabinet can only review the application if all of the documents required by the DCA have been submitted. It means that if the DCA requires a drawing stamped by a structural engineer, or if there is a requirement for an EIA to be done, Cabinet has no authority to review the application. This is critical as I believe many applications approved by Cabinet over the years may have been illegal.
FACT # 5 – Any person shall be entitled to access to the information recorded in the Register at the DCA.
Under Section 47, the DCA is required to maintain a register of every application including the name and address of the applicant, the date of application and the development forming the application. The register will have the date and effect of any decision in respect of any such application, any enforcement notice, stop notice, appeal. Under Section 47 (4) every person in Saint Lucia is entitled to access to this information recorded in this register and to take copies of such information once one pays for the photocopies. Certainly, when the National Trust speaks of not being able to access information, it may be that they were unaware of this section in the Act.
FACT # 6 – The Act binds the Crown.
Section 57 states that the Act binds the Crown, it means that every government project is subjected to the same measures as any other developer. The government could not have started St Jude’s without the approval of the DCA. I am aware of so many government projects undertaken over the last 30 years, that did not obtain DCA approval. The government has to lead by example.
FACT # 7 – Certain activities do not require DCA approval.
There are certain activities that do not require DCA approval, these are found under Schedule 3 and would include garden huts, gates and fences not exceeding 4 feet, repairs to roads, bridges, and harbours. Also included would be internal renovations and extensions to a single-family dwelling house not exceeding 1/3 of the existing floor area. It means that Saint Lucia Air and Sea Ports Authority must submit an application for the Airport terminal. The ministry of infrastructure must submit an application for new roads and bridges being constructed and you cannot put up a fence higher than 4 ft without applying to the DCA.
FACT # 8 – The Saint Lucia National Trust has a lot of power under the Act.
The Saint Lucia National Trust was given significant power under the Act. Under Section 33, the SLNT is empowered to submit a list of buildings, monuments, and sites of special prehistoric, historic, or architectural interest to the DCA for their adoption. If this list is adopted then the DCA shall inform the owners or occupiers and there can be no demolition of alteration unless notice if given two months before work is commenced. When that notice is given by the developer, the DCA shall send a copy of the notice to the National Trust for their consideration and comments. The question remains as to if the SLNT has ever submitted such a list for the adoption by the DCA. So, I say to the SLNT, the Act empowers you, use the law to perform your functions. Section 34 also gives the same power for compiling lists of places of natural beauty, including submarine and subterranean areas, and their flora and fauna.
FACT # 9 – The DCA can issue a Stop Notice and proceed to enter land and execute remedial works.
Under Section 39, the DCA can issue a stop notice, which prohibits any person on whom it is served from carrying on or continuing any specified operations on the lands. If the person disregards the Stop Notice the DCA can enter the lands and execute the remedial works and recover their expenses. So, for example, if a developer infringes the provisions of the application say in relation to the EIA, and that activity is causing siltation of the coast, the DCA can enter the lands and do the remedial measures. Non-compliance with an enforcement notice or stop notice will result in a fine of up to $ 50,000.
FACT # 10 – The DCA can institute a civil action for an injunction.
If a developer refuses to stop the works, despite the issuance of the stop notice and the enforcement notice, the DCA can proceed to the Courts to obtain an injunction to prevent any person from violating the provisions of the Act or to enforce a stop notice or enforcement notice.
So, if you have reached this far it means that you wanted to understand the provision of the physical planning and development act. Hope it was informative.