Bernard Lodge squatters get regularised

Bernard Lodge squatters get regularised

Senior staff reporter

Sunday, February 23, 2020

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Over 100 squatters within the 2,000 acreage of the Bernard Lodge Estate destined for re-development, are being relocated into a new area of Portmore to facilitate the project.

According to the head of the implementation committee, Joseph Shoucair, over 40 of those squatters have already been removed to the relocation area, close to Grange Lane, and have been upgraded from squatters to property owners.

“There is no more squatting, and in the four months since they have been there, look at what they have been done. I am proud of this,” Shoucair told a crowded Vision Apostolic House of Prayer in Dunbeholden, St Catherine as he pointed to a map of the new relocation area for squatters.

The residents were also joined by Member of Parliament for St Catherine Southern, Fitz Jackson; Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) representative, Rev Welton Shettlewood and Mayor of Spanish Town, Councillor Norman Scott for the Community Sensitisation Meeting addressing the benefits and details of the recently approved revised Greater Bernard Lodge Development Master Plan (GBLDMP).

Shoucair, who also heads the main developer, the Sugar Company Holdings (SCH) Limited, owners of the Bernard Lodge Estate, said that there were over 270 lessees, including the 104 affected by the relocation. The affected residents have each received two-acre pieces of land for relocation as the new owners.

“We have to accept that people don't like to move. It is a natural human instinct, but once we overcome that problem, then we can make better of the move, than we have now,” he told the crowd.

He said that nine out of 10 of the squatters have not been paying rent, but those who pay have cash crops which will be valued and they will be reimbursed with cash payments, as well as other costs including irrigation tools and sheds, to ensure that nobody is worse off.

“They will be charged a concessional rent for the first year of relocation, so that they can re-establish themselves,” he added.

“What I want you to believe is that we are going to be actively engaged in your communities, because we want to build a good relationship with you,” he told the gathering.

Shoucair also denied that the project is about developing a new town, as has been suggested by some critics.

“It is a fallacy to believe that the Greater Bernard Lodge area is a new town. It will not be a new town. It will have an urban component, but it will be 56 per cent agricultural production and for the rest of 5,400 acres for housing and some commercial buildings and social services and a 'retention pond',” he stated.

A retention pond runs adjacent to, tributaries, streams, lakes or bays to protect against flooding and, in some cases, downstream erosion and to retain water for use in drought periods.

He said that a master plan is being developed of all the community sewage systems currently in use in the area, which will eventually filter into a central sewage system for the communities.

He also noted that there are areas of illegal activities such garbage dumping and sand mining which will have to be addressed.

“If we leave Bernard Lodge as it is now, do you think it is going to stop? It is going to get worse, and worse and worse. So doing nothing cannot be an option. We have to do something, but we have to make sure that we are mindful of what (MP) Jackson said, that we do something to benefit all the people,” he stated.

He said that it was also critical that when construction starts, skilled persons living in the affected communities benefit from the employment that is generated.

The GBLMP Revised Master Plan was announced two Fridays ago by Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Daryl Vaz, at a press conference at Jamaica House.

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

The revised Master Plan covers a total of 5,397.02 acres out of some 21,000 acres of former sugar estate lands, with 3,026.79 acres allotted for agricultural purposes and the remaining acreage divided between residential, commercial, light-manufacturing,

Attendees also received presentations and materials from the Social Development Commission (SDC), National Housing Trust (NHT), National Insurance Scheme (NIS), HEART Trust NTA, and the Registrar General's Department (RGD) about the social services that will become accessible as part of the development.

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

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