On Thursday June 8th, 2023, the Ministry of Interior Affairs and Kingdom Relations (BZL) representative Henk Kats had the opportunity to meet with the residents of Saba to present a brief presentation on the Spatial Development Program currently being developed. Accompanying Mr. Kats for support was Stijn Schep who works for the consultancy firm Grant Thornton stationed in the Netherlands. It was a townhall style meeting, leaving room for free discussion.
Mr. Schep began the presentation on exactly what the BES Spatial Development Planning Principal Act for the Caribbean Netherlands is and explained what it means for Saba. The Spatial Development Act prescribes that the Ministry of Interior and Kingdom Relations develops a Spatial Development Program in which national policy objectives are identified and therefore have an implication for spatial planning in the Caribbean Netherlands.
Mr. Schep noted that what was being developed now was the Spatial Development Program and that this was not the Spatial Development Plan for Saba yet, as Saba currently has no Spatial Development Plan. He also added that the law proposes the responsibility of developing a Spatial Development Plan for the territories of the island to its local government. Therefore, now is the perfect time to work together in the development stages of the Zoning Spatial Development Program as this provides guidelines for what Saba’s Spatial Development Plan once completed should look like, Mr. Schep noted.
The Spatial Development Program Caribbean Netherlands is an overview of the national policy objectives and guidelines for Spatial Planning and is not the actual regulation for Spatial Planning. The program has a 10-year mark where it can be revisited and revised but must be reviewed prior to this mark and updated if necessary. Mr. Schep clarified what the Spatial Development Program was not. He mentioned four points.
- Not a Zoning Plan for the island
- Does not provide an overview for specific zones.
- Does not go into specific plots or properties.
- Does not command on individual projects.
Process to create the Spatial Planning Program
The Spatial Development Program began last year where the Caribbean Netherlands islands were visited to identify important information that should be included in the Spatial Development Program. The outcome of these visits resulted in the creation of the Spatial Agenda, a list of policy objectives that are applicable to include in Spatial Planning. Earlier this year, the islands were revisited to gather further input from external stakeholders, local government, and NGOs on the created Spatial Agenda. A preliminary draft of the program was formed based on those consultations.
1. Efficient use of space on the islands
2. Future proof housing needs to be developed
3. Sufficient access to facilities for healthy living department
4. Protecting sensitive functions from the impact of climate change
5. Good water management
6. Encouraging investments in renewable energy
7. Protecting nature above and below water
8. Ensuring safety zones around companies/residential
9. Protecting cultural heritage and archaeological values
10. Sustainable economic development
11. Agricultural development for food security
12. Safe operation of airports
13. Full accessibility of seaports
14. Exclusive economic zone
Areas on the Saba were scouted based on the 14 policy objectives mentioned. Because Saba has no Spatial Plan in place many areas could not be identified. The areas that were able to be identified are known on a national level and are the Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport, Fort Bay Harbor, National Park Mount Scenery and the Saba Marine Park.
Based on the discussions from the June 8 townhall meeting, a draft of the program will be made. At the end of June, Henk Kats will return to Saba with Minister for Social Housing and Spatial Planning Hugo de Jonge to discuss the program. After that visit, Kats and Minister De Jonge will publish the program, allowing locals the opportunity to review and give feedback on the program. Residents at the townhall meeting were asked to write down their email to receive an email notification when the program is published.
Toward the end of 2023, based on written responses and information gathered, a follow-up version of the draft will be made. This version will first be presented to the Public Entities for an official response. The Council of Ministers will then receive this document and to adopt the program.