Urban area residents told to brace for more high-rises
A new high-rise apartment building going up on South Avenue in Kingston (Photo: Naphtali Junior)

Residents of urban areas are being advised to expect more high-rise buildings, with Government encouraging multi-storey developments under the Provisional Development Order of 2017, which it hopes will be confirmed in short order.

“We have to bear in mind that we are in a city and if you live in a city you are going to see a city develop – orderly development. You can’t live in a city and don’t expect to see a city develop. Cities develop around you, you may wish not to be part of the development of the city and you may want to move further to the suburbs, and that is fine,” head of the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), Peter Knight, stated on Wednesday during a meeting of Parliament’s Infrastructure and Physical Development Committee, which met for the first time in almost a year.

The discussions were based on the concerns of a cluster of citizen groups about overbuilding in the Charlemont Drive area of Kingston 6. Residents have complained about the proliferation of multi-storey developments which they say have disrupted the single-family arrangements that characterised the neighbourhood for decades, and intrudes on their privacy.

The citizens' associations say that although the provisional development order had changed the previously allowable 30 habitable rooms per acre and two storeys, to 100 habitable rooms per acre and six storeys, the reality on the ground is very different.

“NEPA has allowed for residential building heights of up to eight and 10 storeys in these areas, and many developers are allowed to get away with flagrantly increasing the allowable densities by falsely submitting one-bedroom units as studio units, and two-bedroom units as one-bedroom units, thereby approximately doubling the allowable densities,” the associations said in their written submission to the committee months ago.

Knight stressed to the committee on Wednesday that the new development order was prepared in collaboration with a plethora of entities, including the town and country planning authority, the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation (KSAMC), community groups, professional bodies, academia, and other government entities.

He said the order promotes increased densities and heights of buildings and that 19 major growth centres have been identified in the KSAMC: “We are allowing higher densities in the main local planning areas such as downtown, new Kingston, Half Way Tree, Constant Spring, Hagley Park, and Camp Road, to name a few”.

Knight argued that persons often do not participate in the consultation process for development.

“You will publish notice and people don’t participate and then they say there was no consultation,” he said.

Knight pointed to bodies which have been a part of the process, including neighbourhood groups and associations representing areas such as the Golden Triangle, Mona, New Kingston, Eastwood Park Gardens, Trafalgar Park, Liguanea, Charlemont Drive, and major landowners such as churches.

“Since we have published the provisional order some of these church groups have come in to see how they can develop parcels of their land for national development,” he noted.

At the same time, he said the order promotes economic growth, sustainable development and the protection of the environment, and providing green spaces for citizens.

“We want to facilitate urban development and revitalize blighted areas. So some of the policies are geared to having these blighted areas developed – we see communities taking opportunities with increased densities and improving,” he said.

The discussions focused on the processes available to residents to register their objections, with the entities responsible for building, planning and environmental approvals, such as the KSAMC and NEPA.

The committee learnt that there is currently no provision in the Town and Country Planning Act to make objections to a development, and that the KSAMC only informally addresses concerns, although these are still considered in its decision to grant or reject an application to build.

Alphea Saunders

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