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2000-01-12

NEWS: WE WIN ROUND ONE

 

The Struggle Continues
By John Maxwell Jan 11, 2000

Dr 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.

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PRESENTATION PRECLUDED
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 Campbell.

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 shelter.

It has never been clear whether the cabinet as a whole knew that the scheme was actually part of Hope Gardens.

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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 the Gardens.

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.

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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 11, 2000.

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.

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LINKS
Photo of Proposed Site (800x600) |
1966 Survey Map | Objection sent to the Minister of Housing and Development | Rebuttal of Estech's EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) | Objection made to NRCA (Natural Resources Conservation Authority) | Common Sense: Where will the children play? | Common Sense: The battle of Hope Gardens | Common Sense: An offer they couldn't refuse | Common Sense: No mek dem tek it! | Common Sense: Hoping against Hope | Common Sense: Transparency and Hope | News: The Struggle Continues | Press Release from Birdlife of Jamaica | Memo from Mona Heights Citizens' Association | Letter from Stuart Lacy of WildLife Jamaica | Letter from Gloria Escoffery | Letter from Daphne & Peter Abrahams | Satire by 'Cher' | An Opposing Viewpoint from The Gleaner | Protest Letters | The Principals | Add your $0.02