Sun | Aug 20, 2017

Gov't to acquire controversial Red Hills Road property

Published:Sunday | December 25, 2016 | 12:00 AMNeville Graham
Andrew Holness
Karl Samuda
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The Government has moved to carry out its stated intention to acquire land at 85 Red Hills Road, St Andrew, which created controversy following a protest there in October this year, based on a court order that people said to be squatting there were to be evicted.

It also followed the Government's own failed attempt to get an injunction barring the property's owner from evicting the residents.

During the protest, member of parliament for St Andrew North Central Karl Samuda said the Government would be moving to use the 1977 Local Improvements (Communities Amenities) Act to acquire the property, declaring that "any judge who declares that a person who claims to own the land, whether it is so or not, has the right to evict the people is not to be tolerated."

 

SAMUDA UNDER FIRE

 

Samuda came in for heavy criticisms from the Bar Association, the Opposition and others who suggested that his comments were inappropriate and that he should apologise for attacking judges in that manner, but he reportedly said he would not.

He pointed to the act that was created to give basic amenities such as roadways, water supply, sewage disposal, and electricity supply to communities established by people who were not expected to have permanent residence.

In an advertisement published last Wednesday over the name of Andrew Holness, Minister of Economic Growth and Job Creation and Minister of Housing, the Government announced that it served notice of The Special Improvements (Infrastructure) Area 85 Red Hills Road, St Andrew, (Inspection, Objections and Representations) Notice 2016 under the Local Improvements (Community Amenities) Act.

The act gives the minister the power to declare an improvement order for any land, settlement, building or tenement.

Section 4(a) of the act says that "No person shall evict any tenant who is in occupation of any land within the area covered by the order or terminate any existing tenancy of such land without obtaining prior approval of the Minister for proceeding with such eviction or termination."

The notice said interested persons may inspect the plan covered by the 85 Red Hills Road Order at the ministry up to January 27, 2017 to make objections or to be heard if there is a dispute.

The residents at the Red Hill Road settlement, some claiming to be living on the land for more than 30 years, have been facing eviction since September 2016. The owner of the land reportedly said he has plans to construct a plaza at the location.

Franklin Grenyon, attorney representing the owner, was quoted in October as saying that his client was open to "something substantive in terms of an offer".

However, efforts to contact Grenyon for further comment in light of the order proved unsuccessful as the listed number went unanswered.

On October 13, 2016, residents protested their imminent eviction and called on their member of parliament to do something about the matter.

The Government took the matter to the Supreme Court on October 20, 2016, seeking an injunction to restrain the land owner from carrying out the eviction of the residents, but it was rejected by a judge in chambers.

 

LOCAL GOV'T ACT

 

Samuda subsequently said the Government would seek to apply the Local Government Improvement Act to the Red Hills Road premises, reportedly saying that young judges are not researching deep enough to recognise that Jamaica has laws which require the permission of the minister of housing before evictions can be ordered in certain circumstances.

Minister without Portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister, Dr Horace Chang subsequently signalled that the Government had appointed a valuator for the land. He also asserted that the Government has the right to acquire some properties for certain developments under the act.