There is still no confirmation on when the National Planning Authority will come on stream to replace the Town and Country Planning Division.
The Planning and Facilitation of Development Bill (2014), which will operationalize the NPA, was passed seven years ago. However, it is yet to be fully proclaimed.
A Joint Select Committee yesterday examined the setbacks in the proclamation of the bill, which also seeks to have powers devolved to municipal corporations for the purpose of spatial planning.
The Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Planning and Development, Marie Hinds, told the parliamentary committee they are concerned that regional corporations are not yet ready for that responsibility.
“It is not easy for them (Municipal Corporations). We stand ready to continue to support but, a National Planning Authority without equipped and ready municipal corporations mean nothing because everything has to start in that place first before it comes up to the National Planning Authority. So I would say we need to put a lot more time and effort, resources and support on that end”, Hinds stated.
The Deputy Permanent Secretary also sought to clarify concerns that the absence of the authority was to be blamed for the spate of housing developments believed to be unregulated.
“There is an existing entity which functions on behalf of the current Planning and Development Minister and that entity is the Town and Country Division. It is not as though there was no legislation existing under which we can exercise enforcement”, Hinds noted.
She admitted though that once the entity becomes operational, there will be stricter penalties thereby deterring unregulated developments.
“You will have officers in the 14 corporations, the planning officers, the building inspectors, enforcement officers so there is an opportunity for many more eyes to see what’s happening on the ground as opposed to a centralized unit which is the Town and Country Division”, according to Hinds.
Even though the planning environment has changed in the last seven years, Hinds believes there is no need for further amendments, as several were made in 2019. This she noted was needed before full proclamation could take place.
“It is the Urban and Regional Planning and Profession Act that was only passed in 2020. Now, what is the significance of that legislation? It allows planners, once they are deemed to be planners according to the Trinidad and Tobago Association of Planners, to participate in the planning process”, she explained.
Hinds assured that the ministry is working on getting the organizational structure in place for when the full proclamation takes place.