Gov’t orders review of MoBay plan
DIRECTOR general in the Ministry of Land and Environment, Jacqueline daCosta, has ordered a review of the controversial Greater Montego Bay Redevelopment Plan, which has been languishing for the past two years.
The plan was formulated by the Greater Montego Bay Redevelopment Company (GMRC). And it was the first in Jamaica to be developed by a community, an accomplishment that earned it wide accolades across the Caribbean.
But that community-based approach seemed to have alienated some local bureaucrats as after the document was submitted to the government for approval, officialdom has maintained that there was no staff available to review the document.
“There was some negativity on the part of some members of the bureaucracy, that the plan was being done in a community by a group that was not a government group, although government was involved,” daCosta said. “Instead of seeing it as a plus to have additional resources to the benefit of government to facilitate what needs to be done, it was almost treated as ‘(this is) not how things should be done’. And how things should be done is not working, so we need to change the way in which we do things,” she added.
But despite batting for the plan’s broad approach, daCosta agreed with some of its detractors that some aspects of it were “not implementable”.
However, she made it clear that several other aspects appeared to be useful. She has therefore asked for a review of the plan, and an assessment of the additional work that needs to be done on the document.
The GMRC plan was eventually supposed to be promulgated as a development order, but daCosta said her hope is that Jamaica eventually moves away from the use of development orders. According to her, she knows no other country in the world where such a device is used.
“What most countries do is a development plan for your urban area or for your region,” she said. “There are certain aspects of it that are legal, and it is passed as legal by the Minister through an order, so that your zoning, use and density and so on become a legal aspect of the document.”
According to daCosta, the plan would then be the instrument used to guide development, a process already in use by the Urban Development Corporation.
In the meantime, trying to learn from the problems experienced in the GMRC process, the government is also to approach planning in a more participatory manner through the Land Administration and Management Programme, which they are now implementing.
The programme is supposed to help the ministry develop a policy and framework to be used for planning in Jamaica, with initial work now being done in Santa Cruz, St Elizabeth and Spanish Town, St Catherine.
Coordinators are working at the local level and at the national level, with participants drawn from the public and private sector and parish development committees, a process that daCosta contended would maximise true participation.
“I don’t consider consultation to be participation, that you prepare something, and say to the people this is what we want to do, what do you think about it,” daCosta said. “I think true participation is that they get involved from the start, before you even write anything.”