MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Mayor of Mandeville Donovan Mitchell is urging Minister of Justice Delroy Chuck to reconsider the proposed location of a new Mandeville courthouse close to the town centre, amid concerns that the area should remain reserved as a green space.
Mitchell suggested that the proposed location at Brumalia Road, a few hundred metres north of the town centre, does not reflect "proper planning" in an already overly congested town.
He pointed out that the location at Brumalia Road is at the same roadway leading to the Golf Club where people go for health and wellness.
"Traffic congestion is going to be one of our major problems, and when you have a courthouse there it is the same roadway that leads to the golf course where people go for health and wellness," said Mitchell.
He suggested that a better plan bearing in mind to prevent traffic congestion would be to site the courthouse at Brook's Park, which is further away from the town centre with easier access roads.
Mitchell also noted that until a few years ago, a 40-acre donated property at Kingsland, a few miles west of Mandeville, was being seriously considered as an ideal location. However, that idea faded because of concern that the Kingsland site is too far from the Mandeville commercial area.
Chuck recently reiterated his vision of building a new courthouse for Mandeville, even as he hopes plans already made will facilitate its construction, while calling on Justices of the Peace to assist.
"… Hopefully this year, we want to build a court[house] in Brumalia and I am hoping it will be not only iconic, but it will be a five-star, first class court," said Chuck at the inaugural Manchester Justice of the Peace Association banquet and awards ceremony at Church Teachers' College (CTC) in Mandeville on January 28.
However, Mitchell in pointing to concerns raised by citizens and wants the land on Brumalia Road, close to Caledonia Road, to remain untouched.
"I think the people of Manchester deserve better in terms of how it is that this thing is planned," he said.
"I just want to state that the Manchester Municipal Corporation has not had any meeting with the Ministry of Justice in terms of whether or not we think it is the correct place to go, but one thing I know is that the property is slated for a public open space," said Mitchell as he made reference to a covenant on the property title issued in 2017.
Long considered inadequate for rapidly escalating court requirements and in urgent need of replacement, the more than 200-year-old historic Mandeville courthouse was damaged by fire on November 7, 2019.
Early 2020, lands were acquired for the construction of the new courthouse on Brumalia Road, off Caledonia Road, a few hundred metres north of the old courthouse.
Soil testing was done at the location, adjacent to the Southern Regional Health Authority's office in August 2020.
Mitchell said years ago the SRHA had given the impression that a recreational park would have been erected on the land.
"… At one time we thought they were going to be putting up a walking trail or some swings… looking at health and wellness, I thought that was what was going to be there, so I don't know when and how the land was purchased and is owned by the Ministry of Justice," said Mitchell.
In 2018, Chuck was reluctant to press ahead without consensus from local stakeholders on building the new courthouse in Kingsland. At that time, the minister said he had been put off by complaints from some in Mandeville that the donated land was too far away from the town centre.
Mitchell, while agreeing that the courthouse should be easily accessible, appeared to suggest that the apparently shelved plan be revisited.
"It augurs well for proper town planning, if you are going to be putting a courthouse in the parish or a new courthouse for the town centre itself that it be placed at somewhere where it is easy, less than congestion. People can find it easily and you can move in and out especially if prisoners have to get there from the police station to the courthouse per se," said Mitchell.
"Out in Kingsland many many years ago former Custos Dr Gilbert Allen and a team met with Alpart and some 40 acres of land was given to the Manchester Consultative Committee for the purposes of a 'new Mandeville'. On that property, it should have been the courthouse, space for the Area Three police. I think they were looking at putting the Foster Barracks there and some housing for members of the court, police station and developing within itself a sort of community," added Mitchell.
He said successive governments have not looked at developing the Kingsland property.
Mitchell went further and suggested his personal view for there to be an entertainment zone at Kingsland to have less noise and congestion in the town.
"What I thought would have been the best thing is to do a little piece of land swap and develop an entertainment complex. Rebel Salute started in Mandeville and it is no longer in Mandeville because there is no space," he said.
"There is the noise abatement, so if we would move that sort of entertainment out to Kingsland where there are less houses and a bigger property, then you would have an entertainment complex that people could use for their parties and you have less noise and congestion in the town and then now you could look at where you could house the courthouse," added Mitchell.
He believes an ideal location for the new courthouse would be on land adjoining Brook's Park.
"… You could have access from Ward Avenue and West Road and there are some other smaller roads coming off," he said.
"I do think the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of National Security should be having some dialogue, because in putting the courthouse there. They should also look at relocating the Area Three Police. I know at one time they were saying that Area Three would be going to Clarendon and vice versa and all of that," added Mitchell.
The mayor said the operations of the police need also to be looked at and a more suitable location identified for housing the headquarters of the Manchester police division.
"Manchester police need another space, because where they are is crammed. [More] persons are driving now and you can't stop a man from upgrading himself and so police officers drive. There are more police vehicles, so the space in the town centre to accommodate all of this is limited," he said.
"I think there should be some collaboration that if you put the courthouse there that at least you put a police post or you put a police station or you the Area Three office there, so that there is some form of security where the courthouse is concerned," said Mitchell.
The fire at the old courthouse had forced the relocation of the Parish Court to the James Warehouse Plaza, close to the centre of Mandeville.
Sensitive issues relating to privacy and safety have arisen since court matters were shifted to the plaza, which houses the Firearm Licensing Authority (FLA) and commercial operations.
Licensed firearm holders, in particular, have voiced concern at having to visit the FLA offices in full view of people who are before the courts on criminal charges.
When asked about the further delays, which could be caused by calls for the proposed site for the new courthouse to be changed once more, Mitchell said the situation needs to be resolved quickly.
"I think it should be fast-tracked. This is a matter which I think the Prime Minister himself [should] look within the budget and find some budgetary space or to fast-track whatever it is to solve that situation, it (rented property for the courthouse) is very much an inconvenience not only for the FLA, but the RGD. Parking is one of the major problems in that particular space," said Mitchell.
"I think what needs to be done is that in the same way they are looking at removing Gordon House or developing it somewhere, is to look at the 40-acre (Kingsland) property and the Government [should] sit down and look at Manchester," added the mayor.
He said Manchester needs to become more attractive for investors.
"I was born here and if we do not develop Mandeville, Manchester in a way where we can keep our young people, because we have to contend for the same space, but there has to be some form of entertainment… and to encourage businesses to come into the parish," said Mitchell.
He recalled previous site proposals for a new courthouse which fell through years ago.
"I want to state for the record [that] when the matter of a new courthouse came up, I recall that myself, Minister Chuck, former Custos (Sally) Porteus, we looked at some places in and around Mandeville where we [thought] the courthouse could be located," said Mitchell.
He pointed to the Island Traffic Authority on Levy Lane, situated between Caledonia Road and Villa Road, as one of the locations.
"… We said at the time that there could easily be a swap of lands. Reasons being [that] all or if not 95 per cent of the people who go there drive, so it would be easy if the Island Traffic Authority was relocated to somewhere else where, it could make some sense. I subsequently learnt that the minister with responsibility (for transport) at the time said that they wanted it for some other purpose...," said Mitchell.
"We looked at Brook's Park, because one of the things we believe in is that, if you are going to dispense justice, people who have to take taxis and walk [to the courthouse] should be within [easy] reach," added Mitchell.
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