The Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA) is seeking to give prominence to its planning role and functions, which over the years have been ignored and overshadowed by its housing function.
The Agency is hosting its first National Planning Forum under the theme, “Planning in Guyana and the Role of the Central Housing and Planning Authority.” The forum is being held at the Regency Hotel, Hadfield Street, Georgetown.
The two-day forum has brought together the agency’s staff and stakeholders involved in the planning process and planning permit including, representatives of the Local Democratic Organs and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA,) Guyana Fire Service, Guyana Power and Light (GPL) Guyana Water incorporated (GWI) and the Ministries of Public Infrastructure, Education and Public Security.
The forum aims to increase awareness about the role and functions of the CH&PA with respect to planning. It also sets out deepen collaboration among the stakeholders and upon conclusion, the development of agreed plans that would alleviate some of the issues plaguing the planning system in Guyana.
Chief Development Planner Germene Stewart of the Central Housing and Planning Authority
Addressing the opening of the session this morning were Minister within the Ministry of Communities with responsibility for housing, Valerie Adams-Patterson and staff of the CH&PA including the Chief Development Planner, Germene Stewart.
In her address, Minister Adams-Patterson acknowledged that the current state of planning in Guyana is, “not at the desired level when compared to other developed countries.”
She pointed to a number of challenges that have contributed to this state of affairs including, the lack of awareness and understanding of planning, the lack of capacity at the local level to meaningfully address planning issues, the overlapping functions of the regulatory institutions and weak collaboration among institutions.
Further, the minister noted the effects of these challenges and how they are manifested in breaches of planning regulations and building by-laws, encumbrance and nuisances in neighborhoods, squatting, and desecration of the environment.
The minister explained that the National Planning Forum is a start in the process of recognising the pivotal role of planning towards addressing these issues and the critical role of the CHPA in the process.
The minister explained that the outcome of the forum should see improvements in coordination and collaboration among all institutions involved in the land-use planning process.
Importantly, she said that the forum is expected to result in collaboration between the CH&PA and the Local Democratic Organs (LDOs) being significantly enhanced, so that these entities will be better positioned to address violations in their districts.
The involvement of the LDOs in the forum is also in keeping with current focus of the government to strengthen local governance under the current local government system. A key prerequisite for attaining strengthened local governance is the need for proper planning as a well co-ordinated and harmonised activity in local areas.
The Central Housing and Planning Authority is mandated under the Town and Country Planning Act to address land-use planning issues including roads, building of other structure, community planning and transport and communication, among others.
Stewart explained that over the years, the CH&PA’s planning function was confined primarily to the design and implementation stage of housing development programmes with respect to the preparation of site layout designs for the sub-division of land and land use control activities.
This was happening despite the fact that the Town and Country Planning Act requires the CH&PA to prepare spatial development plans to guide and regulate development in coordination with its other stakeholder agencies.
According to Stewart, CH&PA’s efforts at putting coordination and collaboration into practice have proven to be very challenging, given the absence of plan-led development, coupled with issues of functional overlaps.
She explained that the forum is expected to be the beginning of a process for stimulating higher levels of awareness, better information sharing and greater efficiency in collaborating and coordinating CH&PA work in land use development and regulation.
Minister within the Ministry of Communities with responsibility for housing, Valerie Adams Patterson addressing the national planning forum
In moving along this path, Stewart explained that CH&PA will seek to work in a more harmonious, consultative and coordinated manner so that optimal lands use decisions can be made.
Day one of the forum will cover presentation under various themes such a; CH&PA’s role and function within its legislative context; fragmentation and institutional overlaps with respect to planning in Guyana; issues, challenges and solutions going forward with respect to coordination and collaboration and; community level planning and the role of local authorities in planning and developing local areas.
Day two will be a technical working session, where representatives from key agencies will be selected to participate and give presentations.
The technical working session will focus on conducting a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis of the existing planning system based on the first day’s presentations and discussions.
The second day’s working session will identify the initial steps for the development of the action plan for an improved planning system, and also taking recommendations on addressing the other key planning issues.
Stakeholders involved in the planning process