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Portmore Mayor: Reduce Bernard Lodge housing, do more farming

BY TANESHA MUNDLE
Staff reporter
mundlet@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, August 20, 2018

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While charging that the Government should have used the Bernard Lodge lands in St Catherine for agriculture instead of housing, Mayor of Portmore Leon Thomas now wants the Andrew Holness Administration to consider reducing the number of housing units that are being proposed for the Bernard Lodge Housing Development.

Prime Minister Holness in June announced plans to develop the former sugar lands into an urban community which would include 17,000 housing solutions; commercial offices; schools; and light industrial facilities, with space for agricultural production.

But Mayor Thomas, in an interview with the Jamaica Observer recently said, “We have some concerns about the Bernard Lodge Development, you cannot build a development without a proper plan and that is the mistake that other countries make when they are building new cities.”

According to the mayor the corporation is concerned about the impact on the environment that the development will bring about. Additionally, he said he is also concerned about the water supply in Portmore and how the sewage situation will be dealt with.

Hence, Mayor Thomas said he has extended an invitation to his partners in Germany and the United States to assess the land, look at the proposal for the development and to give their opinion.

“When you look at the water supply in Portmore and what we are facing, then to have a city like this built in this municipality ... what they are saying to us is that they are going to put water in the tanks but I know from experience that its plenty of times that the NWC build tanks and in a couple years time we start to have problems with pumps and all of that.

“We want then to reduce the number of houses they intend to build. What I am saying is that since we have 2,000 plus houses being built in Phoenix Park and if we build even say another 1,000 houses, what I am driving at is if we are talking about agriculture in any serious way, what we should be thinking about is getting our young people involved in farming. These lands are flat lands with water on it. It is the old the sugar lands, so it is prime land for agriculture,” said the mayor.

Additionally, he said, “So what I am telling the Government now that we see where agriculture can put us and the demand for our food, is let us get our young people involved, train them to be farmers, open back the schools that we usually have catering for our young people to be farmers and to attract them to agriculture. Let us farm the land and also in the meantime look markets outside of Jamaica (for agricultural products).”

According to Thomas there is a serious gap in the hotel market for Jamaican produce, as a number of hotels are primarily supplied through imports.

“When you look at the development of tourism taking place in this country, the number of hotels and what they are importing, they need to put a restriction on those. We need to produce locally to supply the hotels in Jamaica, the market is there and that is what I would like to see happen for the Bernard Lodge area,” he said.

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