EDITORIAL: Give Oistins its due
Oistins is listed as one of the four official towns in this country, but looking at the state of the area would leave one to wonder if such a designation is indeed warranted. We have seen significant development take place particularly in Bridgetown and Holetown, and to a lesser extent Speightstown, but other than the public carpark created in Oistins, the update done on the Berinda Cox Fish Market, the construction of the Oistins Bay Garden and the renovated post office, little else has been done to modernise the town.
The sad reality is that for many people, Oistins is simply a fishing village. Certainly, it cannot boast of the striking architecture that can be found within the environs of Bridgetown or perhaps even Speightstown, nor does it have the high-end shopping experience that can be found in Holetown. In fact, apart from the two small shopping centres in Oistins, there is little by way of commercial activity other than fish.
Successive governments have talked about revitalising the area, creating a civic centre and modernising the shopping facilities, but little has actually been done to achieve such. Indeed, one might have thought that after a Community Plan for Oistins was included in the 2003 Physical Development Plan (PDP) that we would have seen some changes made to the area, but alas it was not to be. We certainly hope that with the new PDP set to have yet another Community Plan for Oistins, the relevant authorities look seriously at the recommendations made therein and seek to put some, if not all in place. These include improving pedestrian access to Oistins and the use of the existing jetty for water transportation, to help ease traffic congestion on Highway 7.
There is also a proposal to relocate the existing bus terminal to the land side. We endorse this idea as the buses are occupying prime beach front land, and having the terminal on the land side may also allow not only Transport Board buses, but the privately-owned public service vehicles plying short routes to be stationed. We, however, do not want to see the buses relocated and that rare remaining window to the sea on the South Coast, being totally blocked out by a hotel. Indeed, a hotel would be a welcomed addition, but not at the expense of that view.
It is clear to us as well that having upgraded the post office, the area housing the police station, magistrates’ court and library also needs sprucing up. While we are not for one moment suggesting that all the buildings should be basically rebuilt as was the case with the post office, we think it is important that they are at least given a much-needed facelift. In the case of the polyclinic, however, it may be wise to add a partial second storey to accommodate additional specialties at the facility and perhaps even to have an ambulance bay to respond to emergencies in the South of the island.
Additionally, we believe that the private sector must also play a greater role in helping to revitalise Oistins. Oistins has the potential to attract even more commercial activity, corporate offices and perhaps even hotel accommodation, but it calls for the private sector to see the potential and for Government to create the enabling environment to encourage it. Also, let us not forget the cultural heritage that Oistins possesses, being the location of the signing of the 1652 Charter of Barbados, which is said to have influenced the United States’ Declaration of Independence. That can be used as a major marketing tool to attract tourists outside of the Friday night Fish Fry. But once they are there, we must ensure that there are activities and facilities for them to enjoy, inclusive of shopping and visitor attractions.