Carol Archer: Papine university town: alive and well
The Papine Development Plan and the University Town Initiative is a product of the University of Technology, Jamaica, in collaboration with the Papine Development Area Development Committee (PDAC).
In 2002-2003, then President Dr Rae Davis challenged the staff of the university to embark on community-service activities in keeping with one of the three tenets of the university - teaching and research being the other two. The Faculty of the Built Environment, which offers graduate and undergraduate programmes in urban planning, architecture, land surveying and land economy and valuation surveying, among others, and have a complement of staff internationally trained and world renowned in their fields, agreed to prepare a comprehensive development plan for Papine and its environs. The project was sanctioned by the University Council, the highest decision-making body of the university.
The development plan was prepared in collaboration with the Papine Development Area Committee (PDAC), the umbrella organisation representing civil-society groups. PDAC is recognised by the Social Development Commission and the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development and is a registered non-governmental organisation (NGO) serving 11 communities in the Papine area, including communities in east rural St Andrew.
The plan was prepared using accepted urban planning principles. These include spatial and physical considerations relating to education and training, job creation, economic development, partnership and cooperation, environmental protection, open space, long-term vision, easily achievable tasks, among others. The approach taken is similar to development plans prepared for College Park, Maryland, USA, by the University of Maryland, and Washington Square by New York University.
UTech, Jamaica, staff employed a participatory approach when preparing the plan and worked closely with the residents and their community-based organisations. In 2004, the completed plan was presented to the then members of parliament St Aubyn Bartlett and Joe Hibbert at a meeting convened by PDAC. Each MP received an electronic and hard copy of the plan.
The members of PDAC asked the MPs to use the development plan as guide for accessing the Constituency Development Fund (CDF). Representatives of PDAC would be in a better position to say whether the MPs adhered to this agreement.
In 2011, UTech, Jamaica, was approached by MPs Andre Hylton and Damian Crawford, who sought an update as to the status of the Papine Development Plan. In collaboration with PDAC, the university outlined the status of the plan and indicated that some of the easily achievable tasks, identified and agreed on by the communities did not materialise because of a lack of funding.
The MPs gave their commitment to the leadership of both universities to assist with finding resources to advance the provision of the plans. Within a week of the meeting with the leadership of the universities, Mr Hylton requested that UTech, Jamaica, in collaboration with PDAC, prepare a proposal for funding that he would use to source funding from various institutions.
As part of our teaching and learning approach, students of the Faculty of the Built Environment prepared conceptual designs and invited the communities and their political representatives to give them feedback. I am aware of at least three occasions where Mr Hylton and the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation councillors sat in classes and gave their feedback to our students.
In 2014, Mr Hylton and Mr Crawford facilitated dialogue between UTech and TPDCo to support the redesign of the Papine Park/Square. UTech is the only university in the English-speaking Caribbean offering research and training in the area of architecture and urban planning two disciplines relating to urban design. In July 2105, UTech, Jamaica, in collaboration with PDAC and the University of the West Indies and financial support from TEF/TPDCO, began the task of preparing a redesign of the Papine Park.
I write with consternation after reading the letter to the editor published in The Gleaner, Saturday, October 24, 2015 written by Fayval Williams, Jamaica Labour Party caretaker for Eastern St Andrew. Williams questioned the sitting MP, Mr Hylton's, stewardship of the constituency since 2012 and asserted that it is difficult for the MP to streamline anything worth reporting on the University Township Initiative.
While I am not in a position to speak to Mr Hylton's activities elsewhere in the constituency, I can speak of the Papine Development Plan and the University Town Initiative.
Based on Mrs Williams' pronunciations, I find it necessary to clarify the activities within the Papine Development Plan. I am mindful that the position that I take might be misconstrued as being partisan. However, on the issue of the Papine Development Plan, I make it abundantly clear that I write from the perspective of a trained urban planner, educator, and public policy specialist.
Urban planning is largely a regulatory function for land-use management, and thus falls within the realm of government. It is incumbent on decision makers, including parliamentarians and parish councillors, to be knowledgeable of the urban planning/land-use management process and work with the communities they represent to ensure effective land use management.
I congratulate Mrs Williams for seeking to become one of our decision makers. I welcome the opportunity to meet with Mrs Williams to update her on aspects of the Papine Development Plan and, if mindful, she can lend support to the universities, residents and community-based organisations to fully actualise same. With this knowledge and understanding, Mrs Williams, if elected, will have a platform to work from.