Wed | Aug 23, 2017

Was Royalton a disaster waiting to happen?

Published:Tuesday | May 24, 2016 | 5:00 AMAdrian Frater
Scenes from the accident at the Royalton construction site in Negril, Hanover.

If it is indeed true that there were flagrant flaunting of parish council regulations and wanton breach of building codes, the recent building collapse at the Royalton Hotel site in Negril was perhaps a disaster waiting to happen.

Since the collapse of the building, it has come to the fore that organisations such as the Hanover Parish Council, the Jamaica Institute of Architects, and the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) had all been expressing concerns about breaches on the project, which is being undertaken by a foreign contractor.

In the wake of the collapse, which resulted in the injury of five workers, Jamaica's Construction Industry Council (CIC) has joined the fray in raising questions about why the project was allowed to continue apace when the breaches should have raised red flags about the integrity of the project.

"Of major concern to the CIC is that, despite what appears to be a preponderance of evidence that the contractor had clearly flaunted the Parish Council's regulations, that, to date, the holder of the permit to construct the hotel, BBHN Resorts Limited, the contractors, or developers have not been required to answer to the relevant authorities for these serious breaches," said Dean Burrowes, chairman of the CIC, in a recent letter to The Gleaner.

JET, which has been raising concerns about the possibility of the project having a negative impact on Negril's eco-balance, had again brought their concerns about the various breaches to the fore in an April 5, 2016 press release, which was widely circulated.

"All the relevant government agencies, elected officials and ministers of Government knew, or should have known," stated Diana McCaulay, the chief executive officer of JET, in reference to the various breaches at the Negril site.

In fact, McCaulay raised questions about whether Government (the previous and the current) had been sucked into the prevailing view that laws and regulations sometimes get in the way of major investment.

"The pro-development rhetoric which suggests that laws and regulations are obstacles to economic prosperity has continued under the new Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) administration," said McCaulay. "The Royalton collapse is an example of what reckless disregard of regulation leads to."

Building practices

The respected Incorporated Masterbuilders' Association of Jamaica (IMAJ) is also raising concerns about the building practices of overseas contractors, who are not availing themselves of the services of Jamaican engineering companies.

"If this thing had happened once, we could say this is a one-off situation, but it has happened five times," said IMAJ boss Carvel Stewart. "We really should get back to more reliable builders, which are the Jamaican companies."

In addition to the Royalton project, there have been construction issues involving foreigners at Riu Ocho Rios, the Bahia Principe in St Ann (twice), and at the Fiesta property in Hanover.