Jamaican citizens call for consultations with government over planned urban developments

Do we want participatory governance, or is it just a box that our government likes to check? Do government officials even want to bother with that box marked “consultations,” at all?

Citizens Rights to the City (CRC) is a grouping formed fairly recently, comprising no less than 29 already well-established citizens groups and communities in the parish of St. Andrew (and one in Montego Bay). The parish on the outskirts of our capital city has a steadily growing population of well over 500,000. Although relatively new, the CRC group has been meeting regularly, corresponding and sharing information on urbanisation issues and concerns that are common to all the communities. These issues and concerns have been growing in size and number over the past few years. As the CRC’s Open Letter below outlines, the group’s activities and discussions have been ongoing since the establishment of the 2017 Provisional Development Order (a document which looks at all aspects of development) loosened regulations governing housing developments.

As Dr. Barbara Carby, of the Havendale/Meadowbrook Citizens Association, pointed out in a radio interview this evening, the PDO might say all the right things (for example on developing green space) – but have these plans actually been implemented, or properly monitored? All of these considerations, progress reports and reviews should come out of a consultation process with the citizens.

An old house, once a family home and art gallery, in St. Andrew being demolished. I believe the plan was to replace it with a commercial development.

The 2017 PDO has resulted in older homes being torn down and mature trees being cut down. High-rise apartment blocks are sprouting in their place. Developers have had a field day, with bulldozers and cranes appearing on the horizon almost overnight. This has had an immediate and negative impact, not only on the environment but also the wellbeing and quality of life of thousands of residents. Moreover, pressure on existing infrastructure has increased exponentially: water, sewage, garbage collection, and other services. And this will get worse.

Let me be clear: the CRC is not opposed to development. Cities are ever-changing – but they can change for the better. The CRC wants regulated, legal, planned, orderly, responsible, SUSTAINABLE development that responds to residents’ needs. After all, the residents live there. And we are living in the age of climate change.

Members of the organization sat in the public gallery and listened to a meeting of the Jamaican Parliament’s Infrastructure and Physical Development Committee on November 30. They were not invited to speak at the Committee meeting (the first time it had met for a whole year, by the way). The National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) has, to date, regarded the CRC’s submissions with a breathtaking level of contempt. The agency’s attitude appears to be that if the residents are not in favour of development, they can always move out. Clearly, engaging with those deeply affected by this matter in a positive and productive way is not a priority for the “powers that be.”

The PDO will be confirmed by the end of this month (yes, right over the Christmas holidays!) without the input of those most deeply affected. As in the case of the historic Vale Royal building – now falling into ruin – the door is being firmly closed in the faces of people affected by these developments, who have been seeking answers.

This is not participatory governance by any stretch of the imagination, is it.

Here is the text of an Open Letter to Prime Minister Holness, from Citizens Rights to the City:

An Open letter to Prime Minister Holness

For Immediate release

December 6, 2022

The Most Hon Andrew HolnessPrime Minister

1 Devon Road

Kingston 10

Dear Prime Minister Holness,

The CRC calls for No Confirmation Without Consultation on the Impact and lessons of the 2017 Provisional Development Order (PDO) for Kingston and St. Andrew (KSA)

As you are aware, the 2017 Provisional Development Order (PDO) for Kingston & St. Andrew increased heights and the allowable number of habitable rooms (i.e. more people that can be accommodated) in a given space for new housing developments. It also allows more mixed use – residential and commercial, in areas that were formerly mostly residential. 

As a result several communities have had an explosion in multi storey, residential development and commercial activity. The volume and pace are far ahead of the capacity of the Kingston and St. Andrew Municipal Corporation (KSAMC) and other agencies to ensure compliance with Building and Planning Laws. This is resulting in widespread breaches. 

Many negative impacts are being experienced. These include increased traffic and noise levels; less green space; loss of privacy; blocked natural air flow and light for neighbouring single family dwellings; increased run-off from paved surfaces adding to more flooding; more garbage but limited collection; more pressure on inadequate water supplies; more sewage and water costs for older residents and others on limited fixed incomes; and high, speculative demand that is driving property costs out of the reach of most city dwellers. 

Five years is a good time to pause, properly assess and amend the Order where necessary.

However, you have said publicly Prime Minister, that Confirmation of the 2017 Order is imminent and on November 30, 2022 the CEO of the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) advised a meeting of Parliament’s Infrastructure and Physical Development Committee that the PDO will be confirmed before the end of the year, that is, in December 2022. 

Citizens Rights to the City (CRC) comprised of representatives of citizens associations and individual residents of 29 communities, is calling for no confirmation without consultation on the PDO, for such consultation to be part of a process of evaluating its impact and lessons learned and for necessary amendments to be made based on the findings and recommendations of such a process. 

We call for a range of consultative processes – including, for example, town hall meetings and a Joint Select Committee of Parliament that invites public submissions and considers recent reports such as a NEPA Advisory Committee’s “KSAMA Height and Density Report” (dated 06.02.2019).

The CRC also calls on you Prime Minister to urge governing party MP Heroy Clarke, Chairman of the Infrastructure and Physical Development Committee of Parliament, to urgently reconvene the Committee which met on November 30, 2022 after not meeting for a year, but did not invite the network of community groups to speak to their submission first made to it in November 2021.** CRC calls for urgent attention to that submission that addresses issues arising from the 2017 PDO. 

Prime Minister, to confirm the 2017 PDO without any public consultation would be a travesty of the Government’s stated commitment to ‘citizen consultation’ and transparent governance.

Assessing and understanding impact and learning the lessons from the five years of implementation of the PDO can result in a Development Order that better enables orderly, balanced, equitable development, more inclusive, liveable, sustainable communities and a city geared towards a better quality of life for all.


Citizens Rights to the City.

Citizens Rights to the City includes members of the following citizens groups and communities:

  1. Acadia Citizens Association
  2. Barbican Community
  3. Beverley Hills Community
  4. Blue Castle Citizens Association, Liguanea
  5. Charlemont Drive Neighbourhood Watch and Citizen Association
  6. Cunningham-Herb McKenley-Latham Ave Neighbourhood Watch
  7. Eastwood Park Gardens Community
  8. Edgecombe & Gainsborough Avenue Citizens Group
  9. Forest Hills Citizens Association/Citizens Advocacy Group
  10. Freeport, Montego Bay
  11. Golden Triangle Neighbourhood Association
  12. Halifax Avenue/kings Drive Community
  13. Havendale/Meadowbrook Citizens Association
  14. Harbour Drive/Harbour View
  15. Irish Town Action Group
  16. Jacks Hill Citizens Association
  17. Leas Flat Citizens Association
  18. Liguanea East Neighbourhood Association
  19. Molynes Gardens Citizens Association Neighbourhood Watch
  20. Mona Heights Citizen Association

21. New Kingston Citizens Association
22. Hope Pastures Citizens Association
23. Paddington Terrace Community
24. Queensway Citizens Association
25. Salisbury and Environs Neighbourhood Group
26. Sandhurst Citizens Association
27. Stony Hill Community Group
28. St. Andrew Park Citizens Group
29. Widcombe, Hopeview, Newhaven Citizens Association

** To be posted separately on this blog.

One of the many apartment blocks under construction in St. Andrew.

5 thoughts on “Jamaican citizens call for consultations with government over planned urban developments

  1. Commendable work. Only hope the group understands that the work will not be easy. I have been thinking about how useless the local Government body the KSAMC has been in the face of what’s been going on in the capital city especially its deterioration in the downtown area.


    1. Yes Franklin. The group already realizes that it is not easy work, as many have been working quietly for the past few years! The situation in downtown Kingston is equally concerning, although in some different ways. Life for Kingstonians uptown and downtown is becoming quite unpleasant.


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