Statement by Premier and Minister of Finance
Honourable Andrew A. Fahie
November 8, 2019
New Planning Authority Board Down to Work
My Dear Virgin Islanders, residents, friends.
Good Day and God’s Blessings.
The work of rebuilding the home, infrastructure and commercial properties in the Virgin Islands has been progressing well, especially during recent times.
However, your Government recognises the need for enhancing this process and expediting whatever projects are in the pipeline – whether it is in the private sector or the public sector.
Your Government is committed to doing whatever is within our power and reach within the laws of the Virgin Islands, to assist this process, and one area that we are able to do so is that of the appointment of the new Planning Authority Board.
The recently appointed board includes the following members, Mr. Charles Cooper, Chairman, Mr. Lucien Thomas, Mr. Edward Freeman, Mr. Keith Malone, Mr. Clifton Thomas, and Mr. Elvis Harrigan. The composition of the Board also includes the Chief Planner, Director of Public Works, Director of Disaster Management; and the Chief Conservation and Fisheries Officer who are the ex-officio members.
Guided by the Physical Planning Act, 2004, one of their statutory mandates is to regulate development.
I must say that the members of the new Board have hit the ground with energy and enthusiasm and they are feverishly working to ensure that the back log and current applications were all cleared up.
To put it in perspective, when the new Board met they met 57 applications which included subdivisions and development. For three consecutive weeks they met and the applications were thoroughly deliberated and the necessary approvals were derived in three short weeks to clear this backlog of applications.
The Board has pledged to double the frequency of their meetings. Instead of meeting once each month, as was the norm, they will be meeting at a minimum of twice per month to ensure that applications for construction and development are disposed of in a timelier manner.
This is great news for our construction industry, for business owners, for local and foreign investors, for home builders, for employment opportunities, but most importantly this is good news for our economy and the people of the Virgin Islands.
Swifter processing of applications and approvals will result in a direct boost to our local economy. It means construction projects will be able to move to execution phase faster, creating faster turnaround so that professionals can move from one job to another more quickly. Speeding up project lifecycles would also benefit suppliers of building materials because they will turn over stocks more rapidly. In the case of commercial properties, it means returning to service sooner, bringing revenue for owners and employment opportunities for workers, and consequently providing incomes to families.
This is important for bringing our economy up to full throttle especially since Irma in 2017. And may I say to you that I have long held the belief that we never pushed ourselves to our true limit. So, going full throttle means reaching levels of performance and achievement far beyond what we have ever seen. We can do it because we are BVI Strong!
The BVI must build not just for today but for the future, and this means embracing new technology and new methods of doing things. The world is constantly changing and we must not only change with it, but we must get ahead of the technology escalator.
The BVI has a front-seat view to the devastating impacts of climate change and therefore nobody will understand this issue or be more passionate about it than those whose lives are directly threatened by it. We have brilliant minds here. We have creative, innovative people. We have talented architects, engineers and designers. And therefore, we can take a leadership role in the development and application of green building technologies.
We must go green!
This means harmonising designs – whether it is for public infrastructure or residential and commercial buildings – with natural elements such as wind for cooling and ventilation, or solar for lighting and heating. It means building more energy efficient structures that not only consume less energy but they waste less energy, and they contribute to lowering adverse environmental impacts if not eliminating them entirely.
There is a body of knowledge already being compiled and international standards are being applied elsewhere in the world.
One of the tasks of the new Planning Authority Board would be to help the public to better understand these technologies and the options that are available to us so we can make smarter building choices. I look forward to the new Board being proponents of the application of green technology – and smart technology as well. This may require review of our legislative framework, for instance in the area of building codes.
Your Government is anxious to see a solid foundation in place for moving the Territory in that direction, and we are looking forward to the amendments to be made to the existing legislation in this respect, hopefully in the upcoming sessions of the House of Assembly, among several changes that must be made include the merging of the Building Authority Board and the Town and Country Planning Board. We will also have to look at how we can strengthen the enforcement aspect of our building and construction regulations.
In addition how we can promote, “Building Green Smart”.
My people of the Virgin Islands, when we talk about resilience and sustainable development, these are some of the contributing factors that will help us to attract investors, create jobs, protect our environment and build a prosperous Territory that can stand shoulder to shoulder with any other across the globe. We are building for a lifetime so that future generations of leaders, Public Officers and customers can enjoy the results.
Together we will build a stronger green BVI.
I thank you.