Finance minister says transfer of St Ann lands to Chinese firm settled

Chinese to build hotel, apartments and shopping areas on St Ann lands

BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS Senior staff reporter saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, March 29, 2017






FINANCE Minister Audley Shaw says the Government has now sewn up the transfer deal with China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) for lands at Mammee Bay, St Ann, under the 50-year, US$700-million concession agreement that Jamaica entered into with the Chinese firm to build the north-south highway.


Environmental lobbyists protested against the transfer in 2015 when the then Government indicated that negotiations had begun to have the lands, which are west of the world-famous Dunn’s River Falls, transferred to CHEC.


"These lands are sitting on one of Jamaica’s most important limestone plateaus…the Roaring River property also has immeasurable historical value as Marcus Garvey’s grandfather and entire family were enslaved there. China aims to build on these lands and, in so doing, will upset the entire water system in the Rio Bueno Watershed Management Unit. This will undoubtedly result in serious environmental problems for St Ann and Jamaica, and seriously disrupt the ability of the Government to provide adequate water supply to thousands of Jamaican citizens," one blogger argued in a May 2015 post.


But Shaw made it clear that the transfer is a done deal. "That’s well on the way. We now are looking at the incentive regime that will govern it, but they have big plans for the construction of a major hotel. It includes 700 or 800 rooms, as well as another section with villas and apartments, shopping areas, and so on. It is a very impressive plan that CHEC has. There are housing plans [also] for areas along the corridor of the highway, and a special economic zone in the economic areas," Shaw said in a recent Jamaica Observer interview.


It was initially rumoured that the Jamaican Government planned to sell the Dunn’s River attraction to CHEC, but the Urban Development Corporation (UDC), which operates the property through the St Ann Development Company, quickly quelled those concerns last year. Under the arrangement, some of the 800-acre Roaring River lands, adjacent to Dunn’s River Falls and which is also owned by the UDC, will go to CHEC.


The Government had agreed to give CHEC 1,200 acres (500 hectares) of lands contiguous with the highway, as partial compensation for development of the corridor. Changes were made to the implementation and concession agreement in 2015 to facilitate CHEC’s plans to build three hotels, 600 houses, and develop commercial properties on lands adjacent to the highway. The contract was originally inked in June 2012, with CHEC setting up a special firm — Jamaica North South Highway Company — to undertake the development.


Shaw said the appropriate title transfer arrangements between the UDC and CEHC have been made. "That’s all been taken care of. The provision of lands to CHEC was a specific part of the (north-south highway) agreement. We made a conscious decision that we were going to give them land for development as part of the deal," he emphasised.


Some of the Roaring River lands provide water for several areas in the parish such as the Laughing Waters estate, Steer Town, and other areas of the parish of St Ann, and it is also a part of the Dunn’s River Falls watershed. The former Administration had assured that the section of those lands, which have environmental protection, was not a part of the transfer arrangement.


The highway, which was opened in March 2016, runs from Caymanas in St Catherine to Mammee Bay, St Ann, on the north coast, allowing motorists to avoid the Bog Walk Gorge in St Catherine, which is known to be the site of many fatalities over the years.

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