By John Maxwell Jan 11,
Barnett's presentation precluded
Not a 'verdict', says PM
New report due in May
The news flashes were over optimistic. The Hope Country Club Scheme
is officially on hold, for now. Not quite dead
But the Prime
Minister on Tuesday afternoon seemed to suggest that the government
may still be under the impression that building houses in Hope Gardens
is a good idea.
The Prime Minister's intervention was dramatic. A panel of six advisers
was actually hearing objections to the scheme on behalf of the Minister
of Housing when they were summoned to Jamaica House and told that
their services were no longer required, because the government had
decided to shut down the scheme.
One of Jamaica's most senior barristers, Dr Lloyd Barnett, had just
begun his presentation when the session adjourned for the meeting
with Mr Patterson. Dr Barnett's presentation followed a presentation
from the Hope Pastures Citizens Association, led by Dorienne Rowan
It was fairly clear that the Government has been taken aback by
the level of public opposition to the proposed scheme. Apart from
the hundreds, perhaps thousands of email protests received by the
NRCA and other government agencies and the media, it is known that
important private sector leaders have been making their objections
quietly known to the government.
In what could be a move to save the face of his Environment &
Housing Minister, Easton Douglas, the PM announced that the Hope
Country Club plan is dead... at least for the moment. The developers,
Robert Cartade and the Minister of Housing, will be offered another
piece of green space on Long Mountain, overlooking Mona Reservoir,
Kingston main water source. The land also faces Hope Gardens, separated
by about a mile of the Liguanea plain.
In a statement full of pious statements about the need to respect
the natural environment the Prime Minister told a hastily called
press conference that the cabinet had originally approved the Hope
Country Club development because they thought such a scheme was
highly desirable given the housing situation in Jamaica. Respect
for the environment had to be balanced against the need for affordable
It has never been clear whether the cabinet as a whole knew that
the scheme was actually part of Hope Gardens.
NOT A VERDICT
The Prime Minister was at pains to indicate that while the disputed
land is 'adjacent' to Hope Gardens "it does not form part of
what is presently Hope Gardens." The decision to snuff the
scheme was not a 'verdict' the PM said, but he gave no explanation
for the government's action.
"There will be no further development on the land in question"
Patterson said, until there is a comprehensive and integrated development
plan for the entire area. This plan would take into account all
the requests for land from all quarters including the Zoo and the
squatters who occupy another area of land adjacent to the Zoo and
After all these requests for land space are met, the Prime Minister
said, there should still be land available for housing. "We
can allow land to remain idle" attracting squatters, he said
unaware apparently of charges that politicians had encouraged squatters
to capture some of the land.
The Prime Minister said Selective Homes was to be encouraged
and so the government would make available a piece of land on Long
Mountain Terrace plus an additional area to assist them in recovering
the investment they may have lost in the Hope project.
Since the Hope lands did not belong to the developers and they have
not turned one sod of its earth, it is questionable how much they
have spent on the project, apart from the very scrappy EIA and some
outline plans which appear to change ever so often.
NEW REPORT DUE IN MAY
The Prime Minister said he was anxious that the comprehensive integrated
plan be on the fast track. He was appointing a special planning
team, headed by his adviser on planning, Mrs Jacqui da Costa. The
team is to report within a week on their programme of work for the
integrated plan which will be ready four months from today, January
It was disappointing, the Prime Minister said, that work could not
begin immediately on the Hope Country Club.
Unanswered by the Prime Minister were several important questions,
including why he has decided that the disputed land is not considered
by him to be part of Hope Gardens. In his letter of 1991 stopping
the development of a nursing school on the site, the PM ruled out
any non-green development on any part of the gardens and any land
in juxtaposition to it.
Another mystery is why the government was not aware of the Hope
Zoo's 1991 Development Plan when the head of the study group which
produced the plan was at the time, and still is, one of the Prime
Minister closest public relations advisers.
Other unanswered questions:
How will the new Comprehensive Integrated Plan fit into the
existing Development Order which governs all planning decisions?
Why does the government need to sacrifice another protected
watershed site for housing development and why are Robert Cartade
and Selective Homes being given such red carpet treatment.
Clearly, this is not the end of the struggle or even the beginning
of the end. It may not even be the end of the beginning.