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Opposition in Spanish Wells to shanty demolitions

By JADE RUSSELL

Tribune Staff Reporter

jrussell@tribunemedia.net

SOME Spanish Wells commoners oppose the impending demolition of illegal shanty town structures either entirely or in part, arguing that the needs of people who were allegedly given permission to build on commonage land should be respected even if their structures are not legally built.

However, Spanish Wells Commonage Committee Chairman Ivanhoe Sweeting said such people are in the minority and that most commoners support the government’s efforts to remove the unregulated structures.

 In March, the Ministry of Works issued over 200 eviction notices in Eleuthera; the deadline ended yesterday.

 Mr Sweeting suggested commoners who oppose the demolition exercise are running “illegal operations” — building illegal structures and renting them to residents in unregulated areas. He acknowledged, however, that when shanty town residents are displaced, the island will suffer temporarily because services will be lost.

 Queen Victoria granted commonage land by royal grant in the 19th century. Only people who can prove their lineage from designated areas can become registered commoners.

 Kole Pinder, a registered Spanish Wells commoner and local government council member, said he supports demolishing shanty town structures, but believes dwellers who were permitted to build by a commoner should be allowed to secure a building permit.

 “​​I do not support the demolition of those what’s been out there for 30 to 40 years,” he said. “They are built on commonage land with permission of the commoner, but they don’t have building permits. I personally believe those ones that have permission to be on the land from the landowner should be allowed to get building permits retroactively and be brought up to code. I think that should be an option given.”

 “If the government would like to fine them a small fine, I would have no issue with that, but I think that they should be allowed to bring their structure up to code just like everybody else in the country is supposed to be building to. Because what I see, unfortunately, happening out of there is a major humanitarian crisis.”

 Mr Pinder –– the only one of several people with a similar view who discussed the matter on the record with The Tribune –– claimed that about 40 Blackwood structures were built with a commoner’s permission.

 Mr Sweeting, however, said before the commonage committee was reformed in 2018, activities contrary to land rules flourished. He said only the commonage committee could permit building, not individual commoners.

 He said his committee received several complaint letters from farmers about people occupying their land illegally and destroying the fields.

 In 2022, his committee implemented a one-year building ban because of the expansion of shanty towns. He said the demand was ignored.

 He said since 2018, the committee has received only two applications to build on the land and that 200 structures were built illegally.

 He said the destruction of structures will affect Eleuthera because many residents of the unregulated community work on the island. He believes employers who secured work permits for their employees were unconcerned about the living conditions of those workers or whether their homes were built legally. 

Comments

stillwaters 1 month ago

Bahamians are the biggest contributors to illegal migrants and illegal structures. Something needs to be done to hold them accountable for their greed and corruption. They want to keep gouging these illegals for money, they really are all about that .....and nothing else.

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stillwaters 1 month ago

Clay, you are from Spanish Wells.....do not let these people sway what you were put into position to do, just because of family ties.

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