Section 25 of the Physical Planning and Development Act has been subjected to some level of scrutiny within recent time because of the outcry on the development taking place in Soufriere.
The present structure being built falls within the area described as Policy Area 1, which according to the Limits of Acceptable Change Guidelines, no development should take place. The application for development was rightfully rejected by the Development Control Authority (DCA) for those reasons. However, from the reports, it appears that the minister of physical planning acting in accordance with Section 25 gave directions in writing to the DCA requesting that the application be referred to Cabinet for determination.
It must be noted that there is a process outlined in Section 26, where, if permission for development is refused, the applicant can appeal, and such an appeal will be forwarded to the Appeals Tribunal. It is not the role of Cabinet to review rejected applications. However, if we accept that there were plausible reasons for the minister of physical planning to so act in directing the matter to be forwarded to the Cabinet, there is a caveat which is of great significance.
Section 25 states that the application can only be sent to Cabinet if all the documents required by the DCA have been submitted by the applicant. This means that if an application does not have all the requirements, it cannot be sent to Cabinet by the DCA and the Cabinet cannot make a determination on an incomplete application.
- Architectural drawings would have to be signed off by a locally registered architect;
- Structural drawings would have to be signed off by a locally registered civil engineer.
Based on the location of the development as found in Schedule 4 and Section 22 of the Act; an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) would have been required.
The interesting legal question becomes:
- If the applicant did not provide what the law says must be submitted for such an application, and the DCA forwarded an incomplete set of documents, then is the Cabinet decision of approval voided?
- Is the reading of Section 25 saying that Cabinet has no authority to approve an application for development which does not have all the documents required by the DCA?
I leave the answer to the legal luminaries within our society, who unfortunately remain silent on all national issues.
Just to clarify an earlier statement in which I stated that it is time to break the roro cycle, and one which may have given fodder to the mischievous ones among us. The purpose of the statement was to convey primarily that a prime minister or minister has no authority under our present laws to grant approval of an application to develop land, and those who persist with this roro should cease.
As David the Psalmist placed at times within his psalms – SELAH.
Civil Engineer, Castries, Saint Lucia