Stick to It: Integrating Urban and Rural Planning with National Development
In an article entitled, "Toll Road and Rural Development" which appeared in the Sunday Gleaner of September 20, 2015, Dr. Chris Tufton, former Minister of Government, urged the current Government, through the Planning Institute of Jamaica , to do the necessary economic assessment of the impact of the highway and encourage greater coordination between the community, developers and the Government to ensure that they exploit the opportunities that will emerge.
It's important to note that there is a process in place to allow for the studies or assessments to be done, and for relevant policies to be crafted to ensure the integration of infrastructure development and overall community development. The Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) has the overall mandate to initiate and coordinate planning for the economic, financial, social, cultural and physical development of Jamaica.
PIOJ also has the responsibility to co-ordinate national, regional and sectoral development planning in order to facilitate the consistent and efficient implementation of projects and programmes. However, the main drivers of this process, as it relates to land use and community development, are the Town and Country Planning Authority and the parish councils or the local planning authorities. It is the remit of the Town and Country Planning Authority (TCPA) and the parish councils to consult and collaborate in the preparation of the development order, which is a legal document, as per the Town and Country Planning (TCP) Act of 1957.
In addition, the parish councils are responsible for preparing their own parish sustainable development plans, which focus on the implementation of the proposed land use policies as stated in the development orders. These sustainable development plans also focus on strategies for public/private partnerships to address specific housing and community economic development activities. Issues relating to local governance and participation are also addressed in these sustainable development plans. Debate about development orders
versus sustainable development plans is ongoing. Notwithstanding, the fact is development orders are required by law. Sustainable development plans are not recognised in law. I will add my two cents to that debate at another time.
In July 2015, the minister with responsibility for land use planning, Robert Pickersgill, signed into law, the development orders for Negril, Portland, Trelawny, and Manchester. Development orders for St Catherine, Kingston and St Andrew, St James, Clarendon, Westmoreland and St Thomas are at very advanced stages. Sustainable development plans have been prepared for several parishes including Portland, Manchester, Clarendon and St James
In preparing the development order for St. Catherine, the local planning areas of Linstead/Bog Walk/Ewarton, Spanish Town, Ewarton, Old Harbour and Luidas Vale were duly considered in terms of the population growth, economic potential and the impact of the proposed highway. Based on population trend analysis, analysis of economic activities, transportation network analysis, and ongoing
consultation with residents, various land use changes where proposed for these areas.
For example, once the St Catherine Parish Development Order is signed into law, the parish council may permit commercial development in areas zoned "mixed use", on condition that the uses are compatible and wouldn't be a disservice or cause undue hardship to neighbours.
As it relates to transportation, the new development order for St Catherine will include such policy statement as, "new developments are to be well located and designed to contribute to sustainable patterns of road layout and traffic movement and the promotion of transport choices."
The TCPA is conscious of the need for greater coordination of land use planning between urban and rural areas, to ensure the most efficient use of our natural and built environment. This is the hallmark of sustainable development planning.
I agree with Dr. Tufton that there is a need to sensitise the residents regarding all forms of development in their communities. Community consultations are part and parcel of the preparation of the development orders. In fact, before the minister signs the order into law there must be another round of public consultations. This is to ensure that the public "understand the implications of the proposed land use and the impact on their livelihood."
The public's understanding of the impact of land use changes is important. It is also important to have greater coordination between the various agencies with responsibility for transportation, economic development, land use planning, community development and all other areas impacting the country's development. But most important of all is the ability of government at the central and local levels to stick to and enforce the provisions of the development orders, sustainable development plans, National Development Plan (Vision 2030) and the National Spatial Plan [when completed].
Jamaica is not the only country faced with the problem of sticking to the provision of planning guidelines. In an article in the Jamaica Observer, on Sunday, September 20, 2015, entitled, "China to complete city planning guideline in 2016," I noted that similar to Jamaica, China is also revising its land use planning guidelines. Chinese policymakers see this as an important part of driving China's economic development. Urban planners and other experts involved in preparing city planning guidelines for China agreed that city planning should be environmentally friendly and diversified. But most importantly, local government should stick to it. As a practicing urban planner, I say ditto to that for Jamaica.
- Dr. Carol Archer is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of the Built Environment and Deputy Chair of the Town and Country Planning Authority/National Resource Conservation Authority.