Big changes coming for Town and Country Planning Act

Big changes coming for Town and Country Planning Act

Observer writer

Monday, July 30, 2018

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Planning practices islandwide are being reviewed and upgraded through far-reaching provisions being formulated for a new Town and Country Act to be enacted to replace the current Town and Country Planning Act.

One of the provisions is for the new Act to introduce a code of conduct for planners and all other people working in the planning process, the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation disclosed in answer to questions from the Jamaica Observer.

The ministry said that the enforcement mechanism in the new Act would be strengthened to enable municipal corporations and other planning authorities to issue more stringent sanctions when planning permission is breached.

There is a proposal for the enforcement notice to have the same effect of a restrictive covenant on a title, the ministry said.

Strengthening the enforcement mechanism would “ensure more effective actions by enabling the local authority (municipal corporations/ the Town and Country Planning Authority and Negril and Green Island Area Local Planning Authority) and the Government town planner, as the case may be, to issue sanctions against the breach of planning permission,” the ministry said.

The Jamaica Observer questions followed a motion moved by People's National Party (PNP) Councillor Kari Douglas (Trafalgar Division) at the July 19, 2018 Building and Town Planning Committee meeting of the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation (KSAMC).

Douglas said that the committee should urge the minister having responsibility for planning in the Office of the Prime Minister to amend the Town and Country Planning Act “to facilitate easier and more effective enforcement of cease and desist orders and notices”.

She said that the local planning authority was currently hampered in taking action against operators of commercial business from properties in residential zones which individuals living overseas owned. She said that the owners often could not be located.

Douglas said that a clause in the Act facilitated the notices being deemed null and void if both the owners and tenants or individuals in possession were not served notices simultaneously.

She said that the planning director had told her that for over 10 years KSAMC attorneys had been seeking ammendment to the clause in the Act that made it possible for the notices to be deemed null and void.

Another major improvement being put into the New Town and Country Planning Act will allow for public involvement at all levels of the planning process. One example of how the public could become involved, the ministry said, would be “at the stages of plan preparation, where a resident or group of persons will be able to contribute to the plan”.

The public could also be involved “during development control, where an applicant will have to notify the public and neighbours of certain types of development applications upon applying to the local authority for permission”.

The ministry said that the new Act would require the local authority to publicise a list of examples of “bad neighbour developments”.

Another major improvement in the new Act will be a provision that will “facilitate the creation of Development Plans and General, Permitted Development Order for the entire island. A development plan will be prepared for each parish and will eventually replace development orders which currently exist. The general development order will allow for certain permitted uses,” the ministry said.

The ministry told the Observerthat it was not anticipated that the new law would be ready for debate in Parliament this year as the “provisions are awaiting further consultations from major stakeholders while additional details are simultaneously being worked out”.

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