Residents flock Bernard Lodge community development sensitisation meeting

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Residents flock Bernard Lodge community development sensitisation meeting

Thursday, February 20, 2020

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ST CATHERINE, Jamaica — Residents of Dunbeholden, Phoenix Park, Barbara Village, Salt Pond Gardens and surrounding communities came out in their numbers for a community sensitisation meeting at the Vision Apostolic House of Prayer in Dunbeholden, St Catherine, today.

The meeting addressed the benefits and details of the recently approved revised Greater Bernard Lodge Development Master Plan (GBLDMP) and the announcements were applauded by the crowd.

Approval of the revised Master Plan was announced last Friday by Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Daryl Vaz, at a press conference at Jamaica House.

The GBLDMP is a long term (20-year) plan to accommodate future population growth in the Kingston Metropolitan Region (KMR), while seeking to create a vibrant and sustainable community that addresses the challenges of affordable housing, transportation and access to jobs and services, according to the government.

The revised Master Plan covers a total of 5,397.02 acres, with 3,026.79 acres allotted for agricultural purposes and the remaining acreage divided between residential, commercial, light-manufacturing, and social services.

Residents and political representatives received a thorough briefing from SCJ Holdings Limited's Managing Director, Joseph Shoucair, who outlined the components of the revised Master Plan and addressed the positive impact it would have on the lives of residents. SCJ is the overseeing authority for the GBLDMP.

“This programme is designed to provide far-reaching benefits and opportunities for all whom it will impact,” Shoucair told the audience which included Fitz Jackson, Member of Parliament for Southern St Catherine and Opposition spokesman on national security, Government representative Rev Welton Shettlewood and Mayor of Spanish Town, Councillor Norman Scott.

“We are planning to transform an area that is currently characterised by non-performing farmlands and inadequate infrastructure, by turning it into an integrated development with modern infrastructure, state-of-the-art irrigation, high-tech farming methods, commercial and light-manufacturing, accessible social services, and so much more,” Shoucair said.

He also addressed improvements made on the original Master Plan and approved by Cabinet on May 2018.

“As minister Vaz said last week, in April of last year the Prime Minister ordered a thorough revision of the original Master Plan. During this revision, we were certain to address all the concerns raised by stakeholders and this includes the residents, farmers, Government agencies, civil society groups, and the private sector. Therefore, what I am presenting here today is the final product of those consultations, and contains considerable benefits for all parties. It also comprehensively addresses the concerns that were raised about the original plan,” Shoucair added.

In his brief presentation Jackson, who has consistently criticised aspects of the plan, explained that he is not opposed to development, but insists that it must be properly planned.

“I am concerned if it is going to impact existing communities, and at the very least I believe that at the very least the quality of life must be preserved,” he stated.

Presentations were also made by representatives of the Social Development Commission, National Housing Trust, National Insurance Scheme, HEART Trust NTA and the Registrar General's Department on the social services that will become accessible as part of the development.

Two notable members of the community, Senior Pastor Joan Mattis from the Vision Apostolic Church, and President of the Dunbeholden Football Club, Donovan Witter, also addressed the crowd.

Balford Henry

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