Submission by Jamaican citizens to Parliament regarding developments in Kingston and St. Andrew

In my last blog post, I mentioned the submission made to the Infrastructure and Physical Development Committee of Jamaica’s Houses of Parliament, dated November 9, 2022, by Citizens Rights to the City (a conglomeration of 29 citizens associations and communities). The citizens had made a submission in November, 2021. The submission was not discussed at the Committee meeting, chaired by Member of Parliament Heroy Clarke, on November 30, and the citizens were not invited to participate. They did, however, sit in the public gallery to observe proceedings.

You can watch the entire proceedings of the Parliamentary Committee on November 30 here. The Public Broadcasting Corporation of Jamaica does us a great service in live streaming and recording what happens in our Parliament.

It is not pleasant, or desirable, for citizens of Jamaica, whoever and wherever they happen to live, to have their concerns and issues ignored by the Government they elected.

A quick note about noise pollution: This is a major concern among residents. There is much more to say in this regard!

Government Member of Parliament Heroy Clarke chairs the Committee meeting on November 30. (Screenshot from Public Broadcasting Corporation of Jamaica on YouTube)


To the Infrastructure and Physical Development Committee

Jamaica Houses of Parliament

November 9, 2022



This submission is further to that made to the Infrastructure and Physical Development Committee in November 2021, by the Golden Triangle Neighbourhood Association on behalf of a wider group of associations. That wider group was referred to then as the “Thursday Group” and since then, is now formally known as ‘Citizens Rights to the City”.

Our submission is made to the Committee against the background of its mandate/duty, as set out in Section 75    C; subsection (c), page 47 of the Standing Orders of the Jamaica Houses of Parliament, specifically, 

(c) receiving submissions from citizens and organizing meetings between citizens, community groups, sectoral organizations, Members of Parliament and representatives of Government agencies to facilitate exchange of views on the operations of the Government and their effect on communities and groups in the society; and (d) organizing meetings with relevant organizations in order to seek such information on their activities as the public interest may demand.

Purpose of Submission

The submission is made to bring attention to the wide impacts of changes in policy related to building heights, densities and road widening in the Kingston and St. Andrew Metropolitan Area (KSAMA). 

Per the 2017 National Environment & Planning Agency (NEPA) Provisional Development Order, the KSMA is divided into Local Planning Areas which are designated for greater densities and heights. These are Downtown Kingston, Eastwood Park Gardens, Richmond Park, Patrick Gardens, Papine/University District, Constant Spring Gardens, Northern Mountain View, Southern Mountain View, Port Royal, Barbican, Red Hills, Seymour Lands (Golden Triangle), Liguanea, Manor Park, Stony Hill, New Kingston, Cross Roads and Half Way Tree.

The Provisional Order  (PDO) changes the previously allowable 30 Habitable Rooms per Acre (HRA) and 2 storeys in height, to 100 HRA and 6 storeys in height.  But the reality on the ground is very different with residential building heights of up to 8 and 10 storeys in these areas.

Many developers are allowed to get away with flagrantly increasing the allowable densities by falsely submitting 1-Bedroom units as Studio units, and 2-Bedroom units as 1-Bedroom units, thereby approximately doubling the allowable densities.

Residents of single family residential communities are not against increased densities. They have for the most part co-existed well with two storey or three story developments. The issue is that now they feel under siege from a proliferation of 5, 6, 7, 8 and 10 storey residential units, blocking light and air flow; straining physical infrastructure – roads, sewage; straining water supply, adding to traffic  noise and air pollution, changing the character of the neighbourhoods.

The push to acquire land for the current, high rise, high density developments means that prices of land, housing and property taxes are even further beyond the reach of the majority of residents of the KSMA. This begs the question:

What is the plan for retired citizens, residents of the city on low income or no income, young professionals just starting out?  

Citizens Rights to the City is therefore one of the networks of citizens and citizens’ associations, rallying to advocate for:

  • An approach to urban planning that meets the needs of all citizens of the city and results in liveable communities,
  • protection of the rights of citizens where new housing developments are contemplated,
  • Transparent development planning that is consultative and takes account of what affected communities want and envision for their surroundings and the amenities and services they need to enhance community life not reduce or destroy it.

We bring to the attention of the Infrastructure and Physical Development Committee’s the following specific concerns.

  1. Increased housing densities in established, single family communities are too often in breach of Covenants, Planning Laws, regulations and permits; this speaks to failures of enforcement by the relevant Ministries, State agencies and Departments. For example, permit granting agencies (KSAMC, NEPA etc.) are granting provisional permits before the Courts grant approval for change of Covenants.  Developers are building with no action from the relevant agencies, therefore undermining the protections of Covenants and making a mockery of the existing Laws and regulations.
  • Lack of infrastructure planning to support increased housing densities is straining the existing provisions for water, sewage, storm water drainage, traffic etc. This is increasing adverse environmental, social, economic and human impacts. The current approach to planning for the city takes little or no account of climate smart approaches that harvest water, expand renewable energy use, reduce traffic and fossil fuel consumption and reduce pollution. Citizens face increased flooding from run-off; water lock-offs, narrow or non-existent sidewalks, rapid loss of, and inadequate provisions for, green space,  poor road conditions due to repeated works each time a new high density housing complex is built and increased costs for sewage. This strains the wherewithal of citizens, especially of those who are retired or otherwise of limited or no incomes. 
  • The 2017 Development Order for Kingston and St. Andrew remains a “Provisional Order”.   This creates a loop hole in protections and safeguards. A 2019 report of a committee which NEPA established to advise it on allowable heights and densities called for significant changes to the current approach. The Provisional Development Order must be amended and given the force of Law as a matter of urgency.
  • The city faces increased traffic congestion, noise and air pollution. The GOJ response has been to create wider roads even in residential areas and erect concrete medians to control traffic. However, as the 2019 report of the NEPA advisory committee indicates and as community associations and professionals have been saying, plans are needed for the 80% of road users who are pedestrians, not only for the 20% who own private cars. To date, no plan is evident for more safe and efficient public transportation, sidewalks wide enough for pedestrians’ safety, bicycle lanes etc. and there is no evaluation of the impacts of the four-lane highways in the city on residents of communities, on  pedestrian safety, local businesses and so on.

The design of the city’s road network should not be confined to accommodating only peak hour traffic, with additional lanes . This leads to excess capacity outside of peak hours, which is known to facilitate speeding, especially in a low enforcement environment such as ours. These issues are evident in the Barbican Road widening.

We expect the National Works Agency (NWA) to design, fund, construct, operate, and maintain roads as a safe and convenient facility for people of all ages and abilities traveling by foot, bicycle, automobile, public transportation, and commercial vehicle. We need a collaborative, progressive, and inclusive approach that involves citizens in the planning.

  • Lack of responsiveness of State agencies, in particular NEPA, NWA, KSAMC, to written communication from citizens. Citizens are tired of writing to the relevant State agencies, bringing to their attention breaches in planning laws and regulations, expressing concern about pending infrastructure development such as erection of concrete medians in residential areas.  There is little to no communication and consultation on permits granted, on appropriation of properties for road widening/highway construction and about the impacts of all these on community life and wellbeing. Relevant agencies need to account for their lack of consultation with citizens of areas designated for wide scale increases in density, major road works, etc.

Actions Requested of the Infrastructure and Physical Development Committee of Parliament

In light of the foregoing, we call on the Committee to take the following actions:

  1. Per the Standing Orders mandate of the Committee to organize:

 “…meetings between citizens, community groups, sectoral organizations, Members of Parliament and representatives of Government agencies to facilitate exchange of views on the operations of the Government and their effect on communities and groups in the society; 

We call on the Committee to:

Convene public hearings/listening tours on the effects of current high density housing developments, road widening works and concrete medians and breaches of zoning regulations on community life and well-being. 

  • Consistent with Standing Orders mandate Section 75 C; subsection (d) “ organizing meetings with relevant organizations in order to seek such information on their activities as the public interest may demand”; 

We call on the Committee to Invite the NEPA, NWA, NWC and KSAMC to give account to the Committee, and provide supporting data on the following:

  • breaches occurring in the housing development arena and their actions to enforce the existing, relevant Laws, regulations and permits.
  • their convening or their requirement of other relevant actors to convene broad-based, community consultations about infrastructure development plans, applications for permits and permits approved.
  • their enforcement of the limits of provisional permits pending Court approval of applications for change of restrictive covenants
  • their actions as State agencies to ensure developers comply with decisions of the Courts with respect to developments which they, the agencies,  granted permits for but failed to enforce Laws and Regulations.
  • on written complaints and other submissions they have received from citizens on matters to do with infrastructure and physical development, their written response to the citizens and actions they have taken towards remediation/redress
  • on the report of  specially convened advisory committee of NEPA on Heights and Densities. This committee’s report entitled “KSAMA Height and Density Report” dated 06.02.2019, made recommendations which the Infrastructure and Physical Development Committee should seek to be advised of. 
  • We call on the Committee to make recommendation to the full House of Parliament to:
  • Establish a Joint Select Committee to receive public submission on the 2017 Provisional Development Order 
  • Introduce a Development Order Bill based on recommendations for amendments to the Provisional Order and to receive public submissions on the Bill
  • Pass a Development Order Bill into Law.



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

  1. Acadia Citizens Association
  2. Barbican community
  3. Blue Castle Citizens Association, Liguanea 
  4. Beverly Hills community
  5. Charlemont Drive Neighbourhood Watch and Citizen Association
  6. Cunningham-Herb McKenley-Latham Ave Neighbourhood Watch
  7. Eastwood Park Gardens Citizens Association
  8. Edgecombe & Gainsborough Ave Citizens Group
  9. Forest Hills Citizens Association/Citizens Advocacy Group
  10. Freeport, Montego Bay
  11. Golden Triangle Neighbourhood Association
  12. Havendale/Meadowbrook Citizens Association
  13. Harbour Drive/Harbour View
  14. Irish Town Action Group
  15. Jacks Hill Citizens Assoc.
  16. Leas Flat Citizens Association
  17. Liguanea East Neighbourhood Association
  18. Molynes Gardens Citizens Association Neighbourhood Watch
  19. Mona Heights Citizen Association
  20. New Kingston Citizens Association 
  21. Hope Pastures Citizens Association
  22. Paddington Terrace Community
  23. Queensway Citizens Association
  24. Salisbury and Environs Neighbourhood Group
  25. Sandhurst Citizens Association.
  26. St. Andrew Park
  27. Stony Hill Community Group
  28. Stand Up for Jamaica
  29. Widcombe, Hopeview, Newhaven Citizens Association
Committee member and Opposition Member of Parliament Julian Robinson speaking at the meeting last week. (Screenshot from Public Broadcasting Corporation of Jamaica on YouTube)

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