In March 2018 Cabinet first approved the Greater Bernard Lodge Development Master Plan. A year later, in April 2019, the Prime Minister instructed that the Development Master Plan be reviewed based on concerns that were shared in the public domain. This was done and in August 2019 he announced that the adjustments which were to be made would be made public by me, following the approval of Cabinet.
In January 2020, Cabinet approved the revised Development Master Plan and this Press Conference is the fulfilment of those assurances that were given by the Prime Minister in 2019, in keeping with the Government’s commitment to public consultation and transparency in achieving sustainable development and growth.
The United Nations estimate that close to 55 per cent of the global population or four billion people live in urban areas. By 2030, it is expected that more than 60 per cent of the population will similarly live in urban areas. We have seen similar trends in Jamaica with the vast majority of the population living in or moving to urban and metropolitan areas.
The Greater Bernard Lodge Development Master Plan will seek to primarily address several housing, agricultural and infrastructural issues within the project area simultaneously. This includes:
It is also consistent with the growth, employment and poverty reduction strategy of the Government.
An Enterprise team was assembled to give oversight to the implementation of the Master Plan as approved by the Cabinet. They are:
The Development will affect approximately 106 lessees and 55 informal settlers who occupy a total of 1782.365 acres. All affected persons will be compensated and/or relocated.
The compensation and relocation of these persons have already commenced with many already re-integrated and farming. In negotiations, relating to the relocation of persons, strict instructions were given that no one was to be forcibly removed. The Master Plan will see the Development of some 5,384.48 acres for agricultural, commercial, residential, light industry, utilities, open spaces and social services.
On the issue of land use, the Ministry of Agriculture’s Land Management Unit has given the directive with the change of land use that there will be no further changes of land usage for the area. That coupled with the expansion of agricultural lands and agro-investments to come, will secure and expand food security and production contrary to misinformation being communicated.
The Original Master Plan was 3948 acres of land with 1717 acres or 43 per cent being agricultural and 2231 acres or 57 per cent being non-agricultural.
The revised Master Plan has 5,384.48 acres.
It is critical that I emphasize that 56% of the 5,384.48 acres will be devoted to agricultural use, 28% for residential use and the remaining 16% for utilities, open spaces and commercial use. We have therefore increased the agricultural allocation from 43% to 56% in the revised Master Plan.
The Development will also improve several areas of Infrastructure including the provision of potable water, sewerage, waste management, and drainage, road rehabilitation in the Greater Portmore Area, aquifer protection and regularization of agricultural lots. The Master Plan will not take away from existing communities but will enhance the infrastructural legacy deficit which exists through development which is a part of the remit of the Master Plan.
Water for the Development will be provided by Can-Cara Development Limited from existing licensed wells. I am pleased to also announce that Can-Cara has in existence a Treatment Plant in the vicinity of the Master Plan that will be expanded to facilitate the Development. It will also be able to provide potable water from three licensed wells also in the vicinity of the project.
A significant element of the Development is the protection of the aquifer. The Development area sits on top of an aquifer which is a major source of potable water within Portmore and is also used for the irrigation of agricultural lands.
The Aquifer however faces the risk of contamination from additional developments in the area coupled with other factors. Various measures will be put in place to ensure the sustainable health of the underlying aquifer.
Waste Management & Drainage
The Development will also include a waste management system that will ensure the best health of the area, its environment and its people. A meticulous waste management system will be adopted and will include closed underground garbage silos throughout the development that will be able to store more garbage and therefore necessitate less frequent collection, along with mitigation against rodent infestation and odour pollution.
Separation bins will also be provided to promote recycling throughout the Development. A closed sewage system will also be developed to prevent potential contamination of the aquifer coupled with the relocation of existing sewage treatment facilities to an area outside what will be defined as the Aquifer Protection Zone.
A drainage consultant is being hired that will be tasked with producing Detailed Drainage Designs that will foster the recharging of the alluvial aquifer by means of soft drainage also known as Earthen Drainage.
Road Infrastructure in Greater Portmore Area
This Development will be the largest in the area for many years. As a result, there are proposed rehabilitation works to be carried out on specific areas within the Greater Portmore Area. Works will be carried out on Grange Lane, Dunbeholden Main Road, Passage Fort and Dyke Road intersection and the Bernard Lodge Main Road.
The scope of the works will include adding traffic signals, increasing the number of lanes, adding pedestrian crossings, rehabilitation of corridors, installation of sidewalks and streetlights and the construction of a four-lane bridge across Highway 2000 East West.
This Development will be transformation for Portmore and sections of St Catherine and will be the start of a smart city. This media briefing will be the first of many during the execution of the Development which includes a robust community consultation and citizen awareness and education efforts.
SCJ Holdings has also, through the public consultation meetings that have taken place between 2019 and now, engaged several community groups, sporting associations and youth clubs for Corporate Social Responsibility projects including the sponsorship of the Dunbeholden Football Team and the build-out of several homework centres and playing field for communities surrounding the development.