STATEMENT BY PREMIER AND MINISTER OF FINANCE HONOURABLE ANDREW A. FAHIE
DURING THE SEVENTH SITTING OF THE THIRD SESSION OF THE FOURTH HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY
THURSDAY, 15TH APRIL, 2021.
UPDATE ON TOWN AND COUNTRY PLANNING: PLANNING APPLICATIONS
Mister Speaker, at this time I wish to give a brief update on what has been happening at the Town and Country Planning Department.
In spite of the COVID-19 pandemic 2020 was an extremely busy year for the BVI in the Construction Industry.
As the lead agency responsible for regulating the construction industry, the Town and Country Planning Department continues to be at the forefront in driving economic activity in this industry.
This fact is supported by the high number of applications processed by the Town and Country Planning Department.
While an average year would see the Department handling 330 planning applications, Town and Country Planning Department processed approximately 464 development applications for calendar year 2020.
With 464 development applications approved, it means a financial booster shot into the economy, spreading into sectors.
This means there is a market for goods, construction materials, transportation services, as well as many other spinoff areas of our economy.
No doubt, the workers will have the need for meals and the spending power to support our food vendors and other businesses. When they earn their salaries, their entire families will benefit.
The family then is able to spend the money in the supermarkets, the salons, the barbershops, and the other stores and businesses, and be able to pay their rent and even build homes for themselves; thereby creating a multiplier effect for economic activity.
Mister Speaker, everything has a ripple effect.
In addition, the team at the Town and Country Planning Department processed 191 building permit applications which are a more firm indicator of actual ongoing construction activity.
Mister Speaker, bear in mind while these numbers on their own indicate a high volume of work, this was all achieved in a 10 month period.
Like the rest of the businesses in the economy, during 2020, Town and Country Planning Department was closed for a combined six weeks due to the pandemic; and also worked in a limited capacity for another two weeks while relocating from the R. T. O’Neal Administration Complex to its present location at the R.G. Hodge Plaza.
Despite the global pandemic, I must say that the team at the Town and Country Planning Department continues to push forward.
Already, 2021, as expected, has begun on much the same pace.
Mister Speaker, as we close out the First quarter, Town and Country Planning have processed over 150 planning applications.
Needless to say, on this pace, the team at the Town and Country Planning Department has projected that the 2021 numbers will easily surpass that of 2020 for the same time period.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Town and Country Planning Department was designated by this Government as one of the priority agencies to be brought back on stream following the initial 24 hour curfew in order to stimulate the economy during the challenging periods of COVID-19.
Mister Speaker, as construction was one of the industries to reopen immediately, it was mandatory to have the regulatory agencies functioning up and running.
I must say that given the protocols established to manage the pandemic response, Town and Country Planning Department had to quickly implement new procedures to manage the application processes while minimising in person contact with their clients.
Within a few weeks the department was able to launch a completely new electronic system of submitting applications. Mister Speaker, this is innovation.
This new system was built on the existing application tracking data base.
Your Government is happy to report that for the past several months all applications are processed electronically including payments and stamping of documents.
This electronic process has been embraced and applauded by the architects, engineers, surveyors and others that access the Department’s services on a regular basis.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the Town and Country Planning Department, the Planning Authority and Building Authority for their continued commitment to making things happen for the people and the economy of the Virgin Islands.
We continue to move forward with great optimism, Mister Speaker.
I thank you.