What a crescendo ending to 2021! Citizens continued to take action. The courts have ruled in favour of citizens. Government agencies responsible for construction development projects have begun to acquiesce.
Huge kudos to all media for carrying the cries of citizens about construction-development irregularities in their communities!
“We have to respect people’s property rights, and it doesn’t make sense that we renew and then end up with a concrete jungle,” said Prime Minster Holness on TVJ prime time news. The report of the December 7 groundbreaking speech for ‘One Belmont’ New Kingston development continues: “The Government will be examining the entire process. We have actually started. We had a Cabinet retreat last weekend, and we spent some time discussing the issue, so I will be making further disclosure as to how we plan to treat with this issue.”
WHAT IS ‘THE ISSUE’?
The PM added, “The environmental and governance concerns in the renewal of our city is important, and we hear the cries and concerns. We are grappling with the issue, and I give all the citizens, all the residents, who have been raising these concerns the assurance that it will be addressed.”
He continued: “Government has taken serious note and has been following very closely the many complaints.” The PM should take note of a great achievement and significant action of 2021. Citizens have united across neighbourhoods to facilitate strategic discussions and empowerment, forge solutions, address common systemic concerns of the adverse impact and breaches of real estate developments in their communities.
Correctly the PM elucidated, “There are many persons who have been complaining, and quite rightly, about the many developments that are taking place and how it is changing the nature of the areas in which they live, the intrusion on privacy, and indeed the methods used by some developers.”
Especially in the latter half of 2021, each community realised that those “environmental and governance” issues alluded to by the PM are exactly the same across all respective communities, hence they came together. Citizens now share correspondence sent out to the various agencies, ministers of Government, elected representatives; their legal actions and court cases; responses received or unanswered; their successes, and, sadly, their failures.
To stem what seems like an epidemic spreading across neighbourhoods, citizens have become proactive as a group, monitoring the newspapers, posting images of notices appearing on property boundaries, or if they are missing, where there is evidence of ongoing construction activities, also flagging upcoming artist impressions of developments posted on social media without neighbourhood notification of any pending development.
Community advocacy covers the Kingston Metropolitan Area with 24 citizens associations and growing. Alphabetically, here is a list of some of these: (1) Acadia Citizens’ Association (2) Belvedere Citizens’ Association; (3) Charlemont Drive Neighbourhood Watch & Citizen’s Association; (4) Cherry Garden Citizens’ Association; (5) Citizens of Edgecombe and Gainsborough Avenues; (6) Eastwood Park Gardens Citizens’ Association; (7) Forest Hills Civic Association; (8) Havendale Meadowbrook Citizens’ Association; (9) Mona Heights Citizens’ Association; (10) Paddington Terrace; (11) Red Hills Community Development Committee; (12)Red Hills Development Area Committee; (13) The Greater Jacks Hill Citizen Association; (14) Widcombe, Hopeview, and New Haven Association.
COVID-19 AND BUILT ENVIRONMENT EDUCATION
Is it enough that The Gleaner December 8 article headlined ‘PM pushes back at construction ‘class warfare’ says, “… Construction has been a constant silver lining in the coronavirus cloud that decimated many sectors of the economy in 2020 – a growth trajectory that has continued well into the current year… ?” Where is the greater benefit when during this COVID-19 pandemic, an entire student generation educated across three academic years has been denied hands-on practical construction experience as requisite apprenticeship system in offices and building sites critical during their last two years of university education?
On December 12, University of Technology, Jamaica graduated students in architecture, construction management, engineering, urban planning, and other related built environment disciplines without face-to-face, hands-on stimulation, physically away from the university campus, missing interactive design studios, computer labs, and construction workshops. What does this auger for this new generation and the future of the construction industry?
LOW-INCOME HOUSING COMPETITIONS
A 2021 highlight was the November 23 announcement of winners in the government’s Low Income Housing Design Competition. Many congratulations to all honorary, third-, second-, and first-place winners. Question: When will the public have an opportunity to view these entries, whether physically or virtually?
Interestingly, the majority of winners are current architecture and engineering students from the University of Technology, Jamaica. Where were entries from established architects? Are the comments true that these refused to come forward because of experiences from the Houses of Parliament competition?
Should 2021 have been the commencement of the new Houses of Parliament? Will the Government undertake the appropriate landscape architecture design for the winning entry? Will the building be positioned inside the park to allow all citizens full, free, open access to this public space as legislated inside the 1956 Act still in force?
The Gleaner May 15, 2018, article titled ‘National Heroes Park must remain true to its intended purpose’ landscape architects Jenna Blackwood and Mary-Anne Twyman reiterate that locating a Parliament building in the middle of the park “… goes against Section 8 of the King George VI Memorial Park Act 1956, which clearly states that the park is intended to be a ‘public garden, pleasure park, and recreation area’…. ”, also to be reserved for the burial of the remains of distinguished persons.
HERITAGE AND DEVELOPMENT
What about the protection and maintenance of Jamaica’s cultural heritage owned by governmental entities? I brought in funds from the European Union and restored in 2002 the Rodney Memorial Building in Spanish Town, yet in 2021, it is rapidly deteriorating. Will this survive 2022 or collapse like the Manchester House building opposite?
Will the Port Royal underwater cultural heritage, also its above-ground heritage nominated by the Government for listing as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, become a reality in 2022? The Gleaner of October 22 quoted Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett as saying that TUI, the world’s largest tourism company, has added Port Royal to its January 2022 cruise schedule. Is there the possibly of irreversible damage by Government to the integrity and authenticity of the historic 17th-century Fort Charles and its environs that may jeopardise that UNESCO nomination because of cruise ship readiness interventions?
Was the prime minister speaking on December 7 in his capacity as minister responsible for the environment, including Port Royal? Some may say that the future for 2022 appears to be promising. Others may quote the proverb, ‘a promise is a comfort to a fool.’
– Patricia Green, PhD, is a registered architect, former head of the Caribbean School of Architecture in the Faculty of the Built Environment at University of Technology, Jamaica. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.