(CNS): Prime Minister Wayne Panton offered no explanation, when asked on Friday, why no one with experience or knowledge in the areas of sustainable development and climate change mitigation had been appointed to the committee to review planning legislation. However, Panton said he wanted to see feedback from groups affected by these issues or people with this experience.
Speaking at a recorded press briefing, Panton told CNS that the panel will not have “exclusive authority” over the changes to the law, but they will form the basis of the drafting instructions.
Following publication in a Cabinet Note Earlier this month when the composition of the committee was revealed, there were significant concerns that most of the members are linked to the development and construction sector.
Jay Ebanks is the planning minister, but Panton has previously said he will oversee the review of the national development plan. Although this is a separate exercise from the need to modernize legislation, both are intrinsically linked to the PACT Government’s stated goal of creating a more sustainable country and the Prime Minister’s portfolio of sustainability and climate resilience.
Development and planning are at the forefront of becoming climate resilient, preserving our beaches and protecting critical habitats, such as mangroves. The current planning law was designed to facilitate profit rather than green development and provides no protection against the impact of climate change.
The public had expected that once PACT turned its attention to reviewing the shortcomings of existing planning legislation, sustainability would be at the heart of the review. However, no one from Panton’s ministry was named to the committee, and CNS learned that the Ministry of the Environment was unaware of the committee’s appointment until it was made public.
However, Panton said he would ensure that contributions from those with sustainability knowledge are considered.
“The panel does not have exclusive authority to make decisions and recommendations as to what changes to the law are needed to reflect concerns,” he said. “They will make recommendations which will then form the basis of drafting instructions, which will ultimately be reflected in a revised bill. At all these stages, we will always be able to receive comments, to receive suggestions from all the groups. »
The Prime Minister said that once the legislation is in draft law form, it will be subject to public consultation. He also said there could be an extended comment period and that he would ensure that climate change issues are considered before they come to parliament.
“The opportunity will be there and I will certainly seek … to ensure that all groups who wish to have the opportunity to comment are allowed to have this opportunity, and that these comments and these perspectives are considered and taken into account by the caucus and the Cabinet in respect of the amendments made to this law,” he added.
But Panton gave no explanation as to why no technical experts from his ministry or the DoE or private sector experts involved in the green economy were named to the panel.
Commentators on CNS and on social media have expressed deep concern about the composition of the panel and the fact that critical issues are unlikely to be resolved. A priority for mitigating the problem of sea level rise is the need for much longer coastal setbacks which planning cannot waive, as the DoE has repeatedly stated that current requirements are far from being met. adequate.
Other issues that may not be given proper consideration include reducing the number of parking spaces required on developments, the requirement to retain a specified amount of natural habitat on land under development, the provision mandatory for green technologies and sustainable construction methods, law enforcement and real consequences for breaking the law.
See the Prime Minister’s response to CNS questions below on CIGTV: