The comments in response to DNO’s featured photograph of San Sauveur came as no surprise. This is the environment that Dominicans cherish and yearn to preserve for future generations.
I predict that your grandchildren and great grandchildren will live to abhor the current spate of alien housing estates and apartment blocks that are disfiguring the landscape. I am all for housing, but housing in accord with Dominica rather than an alien concept of what our built environment and lifestyle should be like.
But the so called housing revolution continues unabated. Recently the Prime Minister announced that very soon he will be unveiling a massive housing complex for young professionals on land owned by Dominica Social Security at Warner.
This isn’t the first time that Warner has been considered ripe for development. In 2008 the Dominica Social Security Board invited Physical Planners and/or Environmental Planners to submit proposals for a Community Development Plan for its 209 acres of land at Warner. Importantly, the brief stated that the design must be in keeping with the existing Zoning and Land Use Policy developed by the Planning Division and should serve to enhance the Nature Island image of Dominica.
Fifteen years ago my mail was being forwarded to the Warner village Post Office and I got to know and love the locality. As the Pre-Planning Brief cited knowledge of terrain and experience in doing similar projects, I felt qualified to make a submission.
My development plan included residential, commercial and agricultural components together with conserved tracts of countryside to serve as a local amenity and visitor attraction. These four criteria can be headed:
- Means of Livelihood
- Community Fulfilment
- Environmental Compatibility
- Pride of Place
A means of livelihood is a fundamental requirement of life. The plan must therefore investigate how this component can best serve the local community. To have large numbers of workers living in outlying settlements and commuting back and forth to Roseau every day is not a viable option. We now have the technology to stem this flow and the means to modify the way we work.
Community fulfilment cannot be prescribed. The bricks and mortar of houses, community centres, clinics, churches and schools are assets, but they do not in themselves create a sense of community. Community fulfilment comes about when people have a vested interest in where and how they live. The greater the self-sufficiency of a community, the greater the fulfilment of that community.
The physical components of the plan must fit comfortably into the landscape. Dominica’s status as the Nature Island of the Caribbean is dependant not only on the natural environment, but equally on the sensitivity of the built environment.
Pride of place is the hallmark of a happy, healthy and thriving community. It is closely linked to the identity of place. This identity can take many forms: historical, cultural, industrial, architectural and environmental.
It comes as no surprise that my submission was not acknowledged or responded to. However, I hope that the young professionals that the Prime Minister has in mind will have a vision and a voice of their own. Perhaps they will understand that the identity of places reflects the identity of ourselves.