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Wanton disregard of Negril development order to our demise

Wednesday, February 18, 2015


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ON Wednesday January 28, 2015 at 10 pm, I received an e-mail from the Ministry of Land Water Environment and Climate Change inviting me to a public meeting on Friday, January 30, 2015 at 2:00 pm in Negril to discuss certain provisions of the new provisional development order for the Negril and Green Island area. It was short notice and I was not able to attend. I later learned that the meeting was called to discuss an amendment to the building height restriction in the current development order.

I was prompted to review the 1981 Town and Country Planning Development Order for the aforementioned areas. Throughout the document, the beauty, importance, fragility and interconnectedness of Negril's natural resources are emphasised. These attributes are said to be the basis of the resort area itself to deliver opportunities for recreation and education, and to provide a range of ecosystem services including protection from storms, fishing and flood control. Below I have listed some provisions of the 1984 Development Order:

* There must be public access to and along the foreshore.

* No pollution on the coast or marine environment.


* No modification of natural features of the foreshore without the permission of the Natural Resources Conservation Authority.

* The size, height, colour and look of buildings will be controlled by the local planning authority in order to preserve design and amenity.

* Tree preservation orders should be enacted.

* A national park should be declared to cover the majority of the development order area.

* The natural vegetation covering the beach sand dunes must be protected.

* The already impaired swamp forest should not be further destroyed.

* Strict observance should be made of present regulations regarding capture of fish and lobsters.

* The use of beach seines (a type of fishing net) should be discontinued.

* No building shall be closer than 150 feet from the high water mark.

* Buildings higher than two storeys will not be permitted within the development area, except on very special consideration by the authorities.

* Buildings should not be obtrusive and the architectural expression be low-keyed.

* The landward side (of the road) is to remain in its natural state and only limited development will be permitted.

* In order to preserve the amenity of views to the sea on the cliffs, buildings shall be as unobtrusive as possible, one-storeyed and small-scale.

* Solid fences should not exceed three feet on main road or sea frontages and should be so painted as to blend in with the landscape.

Few, if any, of these requirements have been adhered to, resulting in the illegal removal of important coastal features. The Government of Jamaica did declare the Negril Environment Protection Area, including the Negril Marine Park and the Orange Bay Fish Sanctuary, a preotected area but the management of these assets is clearly weak.

I glanced at the new development order and many of the same provisions are repeated, some verbatim, as if the manifest planning and environmental management failures of the past 30 years have not occurred. Setback limits are reduced, depending on the slope and character of the land, as if sea level rise is merely a rumour. Figure 1 in Appendix 17 of the document suggests that a 10-storey hotel could now be allowed in Negril.

Negril desperately needs a period to reflect on what has been irretrievably lost, what has been damaged but could be restored, and what is still reasonably healthy and should now be protected. An assessment of the carrying capacity of the Negril and Green Island area is imperative - how much and what kind of development will the water supplies, sewerage treatment and other critical infrastructure support? How is management of the protected area to be funded and improved? What is the status of the zoning plan for the protected area? How will this be enforced? There have been several studies of Negril - including the ones that are currently being used to justify the construction of breakwaters - that describe the many mistakes that have been made. These mistakes need to be urgently addressed so that Jamaica need not lose the natural gem that Negril once was and could be again.

Diana McCaulay

CEO - Jamaica Environment Trust

Kingston 10



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