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Gov't Hailed For 'Bush Mechanic' Crackdown

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

THE Government's planned crackdown on 'bush mechanics' was yesterday hailed by the Bahamian Contractors Association's (BCA) president, who branded the sector as "out of control".

Leonard Sands told Tribune Business he backed efforts by Desmond Bannister, minister of works, to implement planning discipline and order by targeting abusers with long-standing laws.

The BCA president spoke out after Mr Bannister told the House of Assembly that his Ministry "intends to begin prosecutions" of persons who constructed buildings, or additions to existing structures, without valid construction permits.

The Minister added that "illegal roadside garages", or 'bush mechanics', will also be prosecuted as the Minnis administration moves to enforce the Building Regulations Act and 'zoning' requirements.

"You need to start applying properly for building permits, or you will be prosecuted," Mr Bannister said yesterday.

Describing the situation as another where the Bahamas never enforced the laws on the statute books, Mr Sands suggested the Ministry of Works needed to create a dedicated enforcement unit to combat planning law breaches.

Describing the proliferation of 'bush mechanics' as "out of control", the BCA president said persons are "building what they want to build without any regard for zoning".

"I'm pleased that he was bold enough to reiterate the law that has existed for quite a long time regarding the Building Regulations Act," Mr Sands said. "We would be very, very pleased if he put action behind the comments he made."

He added that the Government's "less than stellar performance in awarding contracts" was partly due to it handing projects to persons who lacked the proper permits.

"We have to go have proper permitting, go through the process of showing architects' drawings, and the Ministry should be aware of what's going on," Mr Sands said. "Small to medium-sized stuff goes on without the necessary pre-approvals being done.

"The law has always been there, and it's become a matter of ensuring we have a strong Minister who will ensure the law is enforced."

Mr Sands said the Building Control Officer's "wide-ranging powers" enable the tearing down of structures that violate the law, but he implied that this had never been used.

"Maybe they're working together, and have said: 'Let's clean up the country and do everything according to the law'," the BCA president said of the Minister and Building Control Officer.

"It's good news. I like it. If it's followed through we will see some good things. It's the law, and has been the law for a long time, but we don't like to follow the laws on the books. It's good this minister is reminding people he will carry out the laws put on the books many, many years ago.

"I personally believe they may have to look at putting an enforcement unit within the Ministry of Works just to go around and enforce, and make sure it happens."

Mr Sands suggested that transparency in the Town Planning and permitting process could be improved via the introduction of a formal mechanism to make the public aware of applications that could be controversial and/or impact their communities.

He added that US law required Town Planning departments to provide formal notice of applications, so any public objections could be raised prior to permits being granted, and suggested that same be done in the Bahamas.

Mr Bannister, detailed alleged violations and problems with Town Planning laws and regulations, although he was quick to absolve his predecessor, Opposition leader Philip Davis, of any blame or responsibility.

He told the House of Assembly there were "numerous instances of alleged abuse of power of the planning process in the past, resulting in Physical Planning inspectors being called in by government officials to 'rubber stamp' applications, even if they are inconsistent with zoning regulations".

Mr Bannister added that he had promised the Town Planning Committee "there will be no interference with their work", and revealed that "understaffing" at the enforcement level in the Department of Physical Planning had led to "an abundance of self-perpetuating breaches of planning control throughout the Bahamas".

The Minister also identified "confusion and disparity" among the local government entities in the Family Islands that perform Town Planning functions, saying this had resulted in different, "arbitrary standards" being enforced in different communities and islands.

Comments

John 1 week, 4 days ago

The Minister added that "illegal roadside garages", or 'bush mechanics', will also be prosecuted as the Minnis administration moves to enforce the Building Regulations Act and 'zoning' requirements.

"You need to start applying properly for building permits, or you will be

prosecuted," Mr Bannister said yesterday

The fact of the matter is that whilst they are a nuisance to many, most of the roadside mechanics cannot afford to go through the costly and burdensome routine of building a mechanic shop, getting it licensed then having to pay the overhead of running the operation. Most of these side street garages pop up up when a person becomes popular because he does good work or has no job and tries to keep a little income flowing. Some take on the difficult work that the licensed shop refuse and so the cars pile up . Is it right? NO not to the residents of the area. Hopefully mechanic shops can become like barbershops where qualified persons can rent out a booth (bay) to do his work. Then sometimes the licensed shops have just as many vehicles parked along the streets as the Bush mechanic. Then this, too must be regulated.

y.

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Naughtydread 1 week, 3 days ago

So you think its perfectly okay for these bush mechanics to operate at a full profit without paying any taxes while honest business men take the beating to support our economy. This is the problem with most Bahamians, they think for some reason that the law dose not apply to them. Wake up John, this is the reason why our country looks like a garbage bin.

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John 1 week, 3 days ago

The difference between reading and comprehending. Show me where I suggested it was ok for road shops to operate without paying the fees you mention. There is no law against working on your own vehicle or family members. Secondly, what was my conclusion? Hopefully mechanic shops can become like barbershops where qualified persons can rent out a booth (bay) to do his work. You the one who needs to wake up and understand what you read!

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CatIslandBoy 1 week, 3 days ago

@John Not to pile on you, but it does seem from your initial posting as though you were making excuses for the "Bush Mechanics", and seemed to suggest that their circumstances should be taken into consideration. As you said "...it is not right to the residents of the area", but it is also illegal, bad for the environment, and helps to cement our standing as a backward, third-world island nation. We must stop making excuses for law-breakers, without exception, and ignore supposedly extenuating circumstances, in fairness to those law-abiding citizens and businesses.

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Maynergy 1 week, 4 days ago

The perpetual and continuation of appointing (one) 1 person to multiple assignments, as AMBASSADORS AND HIGH COMMISSIONERS OR PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE to a global organization, country or entity has to be discontinued immediately. There are many nationals from all over the country of the Bahamas that earned such assignments consideration. Besides the cost to the national treasury is great, particularly, once the many variables are looked at: Education, Transportation, Security, Housing/Accommodation, etc. Perhaps the country could now begin to advance the national identity of entrepreneurial growth and commerce with a welcoming arm to all peace loving people from the globe.

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bogart 1 week, 3 days ago

Long time overdue. Bush mechanic work areas are usually heavily contaminated by deposits of waste oil in the ground. Waste oil contains toxic excredingly harmful chemicals which seep into the ground water. Bush mechanics usually get away with these operations because they are located in the poor areas where there is no water or sewage systen and many get water through pibliv stand pipes or well water. These unregulated garages need to be shut down and move to the govt subsidised industrial park.

Just like the shanty towns where latrines or outhouses pour poop into the water supply where Bahamians use pumps to get well water these illegal shanties and bush mechanic garages should be closed and forced to clean up the mess.

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Craig 1 week, 3 days ago

Agreed, the areas around these mechanic shop are heavily contaminated with toxic chemicals that not properly disposed of. Additionally the article fails to mention the derelict vehicles that accumulate around these shops which creates futher hazards for residents in the area. In addition to closing them down enviromental testing for hazardous substances must be conducted, the derelict vehicles removed and the proprietors of these shops heavily fined to pay for the mess they have created

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