Saving character

by Shawn Cumberbatch

townplanningBarbados’ large appetite for physical development is forcing planning authorities to the go back to the drawing board.

In an effort to ensure the once affluent and restricted St. Michael community Strathclyde does not become overrun by commercial development and associated vehicular traffic, the Town and Country Development Planning Office has come up with a series of “extra planning controls”, which includes some building restrictions intended to protect the district’s character.

At the same time, that state agency, faced with “a higher level of development than envisioned” between St. David’s, Christ Church and Six Roads, St. Philip, is hiring experts to help it formulate an updated development blueprint for the area.

In the case of Strathclyde, which “emerged in the 1890s as a residential development in response to the housing shortage in the City” and now has 13 buildings listed as architectural and historical assets, a number of additional policies related to land use, urban design and traffic will be enforced by Town and Country to “maintain and protect the character of this conservation area”.

It was pointed out that while Strathclyde had retained most of its residential character, in recent years “there has been increasing pressure to change the use of buildings in the area for non-residential purposes”.

The community plan is mandating that “any development being carried out shall protect, maintain and enhance the character of the area”, and that “commercial development (professional offices) will be permitted along Strathclyde Drive and Strathclyde Crescent provided all site planning requirements are met”.

“Strathclyde is a conservation area and any development or redevelopment of the area shall be compatible with the existing built form.

Buildings will be permitted up to a maximum height of two stories. New Developments shall compliment the material and architectural design of the existing street scape,” the document mandated.

“Development shall respect the existing setback conditions of the existing street scape. All buildings shall be coated with pastel colours. As development occurs sidewalks and street scapes shall be integrated into the site design.

“The following policies shall apply to improve the traffic situation in the area: No parking will be permitted along the streets in Strathclyde.

Any development to properties fronting on to Strathclyde Drive and Strathclyde Crescent shall provide pedestrian pavement,” it added.

The planning agency said the decision to introduce these provisions followed a period of extensive study of development in the community.

“Strathclyde has limited capacity to further extend its road infrastructure to accommodate an expansion of commercial activity in the neighbourhood. However, consideration will be given to commercial activities fronting onto main arteries, where the lots are large enough to satisfy the site planning requirements and to avoid on-street parking,” it concluded.

Based on the assessment applications submitted to carry out development and the decisions issued, every effort was made for Strathclyde to retain its dominance as a predominantly residential neighbourhood. Of the 44 applications submitted during the study period, 32 received planning permission of which the majority was for residential development.” It also said it was “evident from the traffic and field surveys that Strathclyde’s streets cannot accommodate on-street parking during peak periods, as most of these streets are narrow”.

“The parking of vehicles on first and third avenues where non-residential activities are located, have also contributed to heavy traffic flow,” the report noted. Officials said because Strathclyde was a conservation area likely to be the target of commercial development because of space limitations in central Bridgetown there was a need for “extra planning controls to ensure that the areas’ character is protected”.

In the case of the St. David’s to Six Roads plan, planning officials said they were seeking “technical and price proposals from competent consultations for the preparation of a community plan”, saying “the objective of the exercise is to prepare a community plan for this corridor which has seen a higher level of development than envisioned by the Physical Development Plan Amended 2003.

It said the final plan “will become one of the primary tools to assist in decision making”.

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