Under the Town and Country Planning Act, Chapter 20:01, Laws of Guyana, the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA) has statutory power to make provision for the orderly and progressive development of land in both urban and rural areas of Guyana. However, while this planning function is at the core of the legislative mandate of the CH&PA, public perception is often that of an agency concerned with the allocation of house lots with the Authority’s planning function being lower down in order of awareness.
In actual fact however, the CH&PA plays a key regulatory, advisory, coordinating and decision-making function related to land use planning in areas of Guyana duly designated as areas for planning control under the Town and Country Planning Act.While the CH&PA is a key institution involved in land use planning, one must however also recognize that at the national and regional level, the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission was also entrusted with special responsibility for national and regional land use planning.
However, given the wide scope of the Town and Country Planning Act and the nature of its statutory responsibility, the CH&PA must be seen as an agency at the hub of the general planning system in Guyana. In this context, the CH&PA functionally provides central linkages with organs of local government, regional administration and other agencies such as the Central Board of Health and the Environmental Protection agency on land use planning matters. It is therefore indeed a key institutional element in the movement of securing a more coordinated approach to land use decision-making.
Due to the fact that matters of land use typically impact on the work of other agencies, there is always the need to ensure that there is coordination in discharging land use planning as a decision-making process. Putting this coordination into practice is however very challenging, particularly given the absence of plan-led development in Guyana, coupled with the fact that none of the local and regional administrative bodies in Guyana have their own professional planning capacity. Planning in this context is therefore remains a highly centralized government activity with the CH&PA being one of the key agencies in the process. As a consequence, the question of adequate human, technical and other resources to support the work of the CH&PA is always a critical factor for consideration.In the discharge of its mandate for planning for urban and rural areas of Guyana, the CH&PA has over the years prepared several urban land use plans for areas such as Georgetown, Lethem, Anna Regina, Charity, New Amsterdam, Linden and Corriverton.
More recently (2009 -2012) and with the assistance of the Canadian Institute of Planners, Community Development Plans were also prepared for several local communities. Due to limited professional planning capacity, several of the long term urban plans were prepared with an input of overseas technical assistance. Currently, the Planning and Settlement Development Department of the CH&PA is still seriously challenged in terms of its professional/technical capacity to prepare long-term land use plans. While we must agree that issues of limited institutional capacity may negatively impinge on the agency’s capacity for long-term coordinated planning work, current emphasis professional training and development of staff, as well as the recruitment of competent graduates trained in the field of land use planning must be seen as an appropriate administrative response. There have also been plan implementation and coordination challenges due to resource limitations and the poor institutional capacity at the Local Government level.Consistent with Section 21 of the Town and Country Planning Act, the CH&PA is also statutorily responsible for permitting or prohibiting development in declared for the purpose of planning control under the said Act.
The development permitting function requires that any proposal for new development or the change of use of any existing area of land or building from one use to another must first obtain planning permission from the CH&PA. In practice however, sound decisions on matters of land use require good coordination with other agencies or stakeholders. The Authority has found that this area of work provides certain challenges and is in the process of reviewing coordination protocols to allow for a more efficient process of coordination in land use decision-making. This in fact is one of the key objectives of the planned national planning forum.Many have recognized that good planning is a key ingredient for sustainable development and we may also be well aware that Guyana has long embraced the global objective of pursuing a path of sustainable development. The realization of this objective however requires that we commit ourselves to proper coordinated planning at all levels – national, regional and local. The objective of sustainable development in essence requires sustainable planning and the CH&PA is well poised to support this initiative. In moving along this path and at the inter-agency level, we must however seek to work in a more harmonious, consultative and coordinated manner so that optimal lands use decisions can be made.Looking at planning coordination in its larger societal context, we must also embrace planning and decision-making approaches built around the meaningful participation of all stakeholders and local communities in the planning process. This is not only critical to the success of the plans we make but also to the very sustainability of such plans.In the quest for sustainable national development, one may also posit that it is now opportune that we direct our coordinative efforts towards having Guyana’s future development is concertized in the context of a National Development Plan, inclusive of a clear vision and strategy for national development in the next 20 years. New found oil resources may serve as a push factor for a move in this direction. In the context of the foregoing and as a National Planning Authority, the Central Housing and Planning Authority is strategically poised to play a critical supportive role. It is however of foremost importance that we improve the level and efficiency of coordination we input in the process of making development/land use decisions or in the crafting of any future Plan, whether short, medium of long-term.R.E2107-03-06