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Squatting hurting Negril - stakeholders

Published:Wednesday | March 30, 2016 | 3:00 AM
Lee Issa

Western Bureau:

Stakeholders in Negril are unhappy with the squatting situation in the town, which has resulted in social challenges such as an influx of persons from other parishes and poor land management by the relevant authorities.

"This is the root of most of our problems," said co-founder of the Negril Chamber of Commerce, Daniel Grizzle.

"There are several agencies collecting a cheque for work that they have not done. All these people exist, but we don't know them; they collect a monthly cheque, but that's it. When you turn to squatting, we are fortunate in one sense that Negril has more government lands than maybe any other area, but rather than being a positive, it has become a negative ... because the Government, for whatever reason, allows the people to squat."

According to Grizzle, several shanty-type, unplanned housing settlements have sprung up over the town over the years, in spite of the presence of regulatory agencies such as the Negril Green Island Planning Authority.

He said squatters had even, at one point, taken over lands earmarked for the construction of a market for the town.

"If you go behind Old Hope Road, behind the Whitehall settlement, there are thousands of people. You buy couple of sheets of plyboard ... you put on the zinc and you have a house ... and you have electricity. None of those persons come from Westmoreland or Hanover; they are all from St Mary, Clarendon, wherever. Most of these people have no skill, so there is zero chance of them having a job," said Grizzle, who operates the Charela Inn Resort.

STATE CREATED SYSTEM

"The state has created the system, and until we get our government agencies to earn their living by addressing these basic things, we will be promoting poverty, and we should be promoting wealth creation," noted Grizzle.

Ryan Morrison, president of the Negril Entertainment Association, attributed the wanton rise of squatter settlements to, among other things, the low involvement of the Social Development Commission, which has resulted in a lack of community structures.

"There are some communities where people go and just build, and there is no leadership, no set groups. The social workers, or the SDC, needs to establish community. There is a lack of order; a lack of structure, which makes it difficult for the police," Morrison said.

"I am for drones," added Morrison. "The only way you can monitor land in terms of building is every week you go up and take a drone shot. Within a week, a house is built, so if you don't have drones to particularly go over the land space, it will just mushroom. There are some areas in Negril, right behind Central Park, if you go behind there, you frighten ... zinc fence. I am saying the parish council cannot monitor the lands."

Lee Issa, the president of the NCC, said the squatting issue would only be resolved if the town is given autonomy to govern its own affairs.

"We have the Negril Green Island Planning Authority, we have the Westmoreland Parish Council, all of which play a role in the development of Negril. It's not working, so that is why I say that we should control our destiny," said Issa.

"We need to put in professional management ... to run the affairs of this community. And I don't know if all these agencies could be merged and be part of a new thrust, which will help to make Negril the place we all want it to be."

claudia.gardner