Wednesday, August 27, 2014


Quite near to my home in Maraval (but fortunately not quite close enough to affect me directly) a Roman Catholic private school for girls is about to be opened in Long Circular Road. The school apparently is slated to have 200 students and either the entrance or the exit to the school (I'm not sure which) will be on Champs Elysees, a narrow road that exits onto the main road (Long Circular). Most understandably, the residents of Champs Elysees are very, very upset. The traffic that this new school will generate on mornings and on afternoons will be horrendous. If there are going to be 200 (upper class) students in attendance (and the fees that will be charged ensure that this will be the case) then it is reasonable to presume that at least 150 plus cars will be at the school every morning and every afternoon. It will be extraordinary if there are no traffic jams on Long Circular road(which has become a major artery in the road system in and out of Maraval) at least twice a day, and as for Champs Elysees, which was designed as a very quiet side road, it will be virtually impossible for the residents to go in and out of their homes without difficullty during times of pick up, drop off and special school events such as speech day.

My own personal experience with a school (I live opposite to a primary school) is that most parents are simply oblivious to the problems of residents and they simply disregard their objections unless and until the residents do something that inconveniences them (the parents) at which time they heap abuse upon the abused residents. I solved my own problem of being blocked by the simple expedient of blocking everyone (and I mean everyone) every time that I was blocked from getting into or out of my home. The school and the parents have learned that it is easier to be considerate rather than inconsiderate and as a result we have lived side by side very happily for the longest while disturbed only very occasionally when some wealthy woman (and it is alway the very wealthy women) decides that she does not have to be considerate and occasionally blocks me, with the attendant consequences.

But this post is not about my personal difficulties or how I have solved them, but rather about the machinations of the Town & Country Planning Division. How does this department make its decisions? Can a person affected by a decision object? If so, how does he find out about it before it has been granted?

So, I looked up the Town & Country Planning Act Chap.  35:01 for answers. The short point is that there isn't much that an affected person can do without spending a lot of money. If a person,let's call him X, buys a property that used to be a residence but he wants to use it as an office, he has to apply for a change of use certificate. But the neighbours won't usually know about this application until he has moved in and the office is a fait accomplis. Then X decides to sell to Y who wants to open a restaurant. Y makes his application and again the neighbours won't know what is going on until it is too late. This is what happened with Woodbrook. In other words, the change of use in a neighbourhood tends to creep in gradually and without those who will be directly affected being able to do anything about it in a timely manner. By that time there are so many approved changes that not to grant a change of use from residential to commercial can lead to an expensive law suit where the aggrieved applicant can legitimately claim that because others were granted permission then he ought to be granted as well.  Not to do so would be unfair.  This is what has happened with this new school.

Okay. I know that it is a little more complicated than that, but the point here is that there is no simple mechanism for persons being affectedby a potential decision from "taking in front" before the decision is made. That there are remedies available to those persons is a fact, but they all involve expensive lawyers who will charge "a pound and a crown" to try and set aside the decision that has already been made. (As one of those lawyers my bank manager and I would be very happy to take such a case, but it really isn't right, is it?)

There ought to be an easier, less expensive and more civilised way of dealing with this. Perhaps one solution might be to amend the law so that all applications for a change of use of any property has to be advertised at least, say, 4 weeks before any affirmative decision can be given. Then, if there are objections the relevant authority can hear them and weigh them against the interests of the property owner who quite understandably wants to deal with his property in the most profitable way for him.

Life is always about compromises and in any society there must always be a balance. Imbalances occur when there is a lack of timely information ... and that is my whole point.


  1. Actually this country being what it is they may NOT have applied for a change of use. In which case you can make a report. I think if TCP got really nasty they could then serve a Stop Notice or something, but more likely they would force them to apply at which stage you could object.

  2. They have NOW applied to T&CPD after the noise from residents. The extend of this project is maybe not known but in addition to the school being placed at 129 Long Circular rd they have also consumed #1 Champs Elysees as part of their traffic plan & play ground. This location was a family residence up to a few weeks ago but this family has now been displaced. As history has shown us this property will very likely NEVER be a residence again if this project moves forward. We will then see the domino effect start to take place o Champs Elysees. This all being done by people that should know better but are moving forward because they can!