Business

Govt moving fast with revised Bernard Lodge Development Plan

Displaced farmers to be compensated and relocated to 1,300 acres designated for agriculture

BY DURRANT PATE
Observer business writer

Sunday, October 20, 2019

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The Andrew Holness Administration is moving full speed ahead on the revised Bernard Lodge Development Plan having allocated an additional 1,300 acres of land for farming purposes.

This disclosure was made by Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Daryl Vaz, minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, following an impromptu tour of the area on Wednesday.

The tour was initiated following widespread concerns and howls of dissent by interest groups about long-standing farmers on the Bernard Lodge lands being displaced from these arable lands to make way for housing and other commercial purposes.

Prime Minister Holness was adamant that the project is moving forward with certain revisions taking into account the concerns raised by existing farmers on the land. Minister Vaz disclosed “At this point the project, based on the revision that the prime minister ordered, the project now takes into consideration more than 3,000 acres of agricultural land as against a little less than 2,000 for development, so it is really more leaning towards agricultural.

“We have added 1,300 more acres, which we will be putting in more irrigation, infrastructure and lighting there, so it can be used properly.” Vaz told journalists that the total master plan now covers over 5,000 acres of land coming from 4,000 acres because of the additional 1,300 acres reserved for agriculture. He announced that all displaced farmers will be compensated.

“They will be allowed to reap their crop and those with trees like coconut RADA (Rural Agricultural Development Authority) will value it, everyone will be treated the same whether legal or informal,” Vaz emphasised.

When asked by Sunday Finance what will happen to the farmers after they are displaced and compensated, Minister Vaz responded, “they will move to agricultural lands either within the existing master plan or the additional 1,300 lands designated for agricultural purposes.

“Farmers could get as much as 100 acres of land for farming in the new dispensation

“So in the 1,300 acres of agricultural space there are some 70 farmers that will have plots anywhere from two to five acres and some as much as 100 acres, depending on the size of their farming, activities, so everyone will benefit. It's a holistic plan; everyone will be treated fairly and equitable.”

Turning to the issue of public relations, Vaz explained that the project is now at the procurement stage in terms of public relations, which will then take the policymakers and the agencies that are involved in the project to the stage of consultation with the wider community.

LEGACY PROJECTS FOR PORTMORE

He said the new master plan for the area will address several legacy issues that the current Portmore and surrounding communities are having in terms of road, drainage, etc. “It's not taking away but rather it's enhancing existing issues that the community face, so all of that will be outlined and the procurement should be finished by the end of October and then the public relations campaign is awarded to whatsoever firm, so the enterprise team will then move around with all the agencies involved and get the necessary input,” Vaz said.

For his part Prime Minister Holness, argued, “It is I believe the first development in Jamaica where agriculture is a part of it both in the sense of farming and agro-processing. So the concerns that have been raised about the development have all been taken into consideration.”

He conceded that while his visit was impromptu, it was designed to give an opportunity for the various stakeholders to talk directly to him and for him to see first hand some of the issues.

According to the prime minister, “The concerns raised are legitimate concerns but it doesn't mean that they are fatal to the project; there are ways to mitigate.”


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