Barbados Physical Development Plan 2017

Town & Country Development Planning Office

The Plan Imperative

Barbados: An island of tremendous assets and increasing levels of vulnerability

The Opportunity

Barbados is a small island developing state (SIDS) with significant accomplishments, diverse and strong assets and a high level of vulnerability. Over the last 20 years, much has changed globally and locally – economically, environmentally and socially. An increase in GDP, personal wealth and greater access to goods have changed Barbados’ economic status from developing country to a recognized ‘developed’ nation by the UN’s Human Development Index. Today, these advancements have resulted in more choice for citizens, but also significant changes to the pattern, density and nature of development on the island.

Barbados Today

In 2016, Barbados celebrates the 50th anniversary of independence, marking one of many important and defining milestones of the nation and its people. The foundational influence of the island’s early governance and constitution, innovation in the sugar and rum industry, high levels of literacy, and more recently the UNESCO World Heritage Site designation recognizing the value of Historic Bridgetown and it Garrison are a mere sampling of significant national accomplishments. The existence of the current Physical Development Plan and National Park Plan are also notable signs of leadership in planning, given Barbados’ role as the only nation in the region with a comprehensive island-wide national land use plan.

Yet as a Small Island Developing State (SIDS) and one in which over 25% of the population and much of the critical infrastructure lie within an identified key risk zone within 2 km of the coast line/flood plain, the island remains vulnerable to economic and environmental conditions. In an island of scarcity, wise use of food, water and land resources will be critical, their conservation and the protection of their health and viability will be key. Fundamental shifts in the agriculture and food production sectors have had an impact. Moving away from more traditional food production practices, Barbados has been increasingly reliant on food imports; in 2014, over BBD 600 million was spent on food imports. Further, food as a percentage of total imports has been on a concerning upward trajectory. Between 2000 and 2011, it increased from 15% to 25% of total imports. The availability of clean, potable water (a utilization rate of 98%) is compromised by huge inefficiencies in the delivery system, wherein 62% of distributed water is not accounted for. Finally, lifestyles and patterns of development have been a significant contributor to the increasing rate of chronic non-communicable disease resulting in high rates of diabetes (17%), overweight (37%) and obesity (29%) within the population.

Critical Challenges
The development and growth patterns over the last two decades are not sustainable over the long term
Approved development has significantly impacted agricultural and water resources and health of natural ecosystems
New growth at the fringe has happened at the expense of historic community cores and existing settlements
There is a growing infrastructure deficit
Climate change places a binding constraint on future development
Planning for the island’s needs over the next 20 years
How much land is needed to accommodate growth over the next 20 years?

Technically, from a supply perspective, close to none is required. Population growth over the next 20 years is projected to be just over 5,500 people or 2% growth. After that population is expected to decline. It is estimated that there are over 20,000 vacant lots in Barbados, and a 2007 study of 63 subdivisions found that 34% of lots were vacant. There is also a rising level of vacancy of existing buildings from 7% of the building stock in 2000 to 12% of the building stock in 2012. Between 2000 and 2015, the subdivision applications that were approved would amount to the creation of over 23,000 new lots.

We know that the population on the island is aging and will have a different demographic in the future. Today, 11% of Barbadians are aged 65+, this will increase to 25% by 2050. Yet despite the stagnating population and changing demographic profile the unit mix has been slow to change. Furthermore, growth often occurs in places that are not planned for growth.