Sat | Sep 23, 2017

Letter of the Day | Parks, parliaments, planning and professions

Published:Thursday | June 8, 2017 | 6:04 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

The proposed development of the National Heroes Park (NHP) and surrounding area has been the subject of numerous debates during recent weeks. The 50-acre NHP is the largest open green space in the city of Kingston with a rich history, including a variety of uses. The Government's proposal to locate a new Parliament building within the park lands and the acceptance of an 'unsolicited proposal' to undertake the planning and development of the project has raised a number of issues, including the following, which the Jamaican Landscape Architecture (LA) fraternity wishes to highlight:

- Governance and the process of decision-making on major infrastructural and development projects in Jamaica.

Are decisions made according to the principles of good governance, especially transparency, citizen participation and equity for all persons, including the poor and otherwise marginalised?

- Physical planning (or the lack thereof) within the Kingston Metropolitan Area (KMA), especially relating to public green space.

What is the best use for the NHP and surrounding area? Should the Parliament building be located within the park or on surrounding lands or at some other location in the Kingston Metropolitan Area, where it can be developed in its own space as an icon of democracy and governance?

What are the plans for the creation of public green space in the KMA, along the Kingston waterfront and around the island? These spaces contribute to improving public health when used for recreation, they improve the visual appeal of the city, increase the value of adjacent properties and also provide environmental functions such as being a natural disposal area for surface run-off during heavy rains, as well as promoting wildlife.

- Government responsibility to local design professionals versus foreign solicitations.

What is the government policy for accepting foreign solicitations and ensuring that local design professionals are included, either to contribute to the process or to benefit from knowledge transfer if the government believes that the expertise is not available locally?

- The role of design professionals, specifically the landscape architecture profession in urban design and redevelopment.

 

DIVERSE DESIGN TEAM

 

The redevelopment of a space that is as important as NHP requires a multidisciplinary approach. Apart from architects and engineers, there are other design professionals such as urban planners and landscape architects who are trained in the design of urban spaces and who would lead a project such as this in 'First-World' countries. What is the composition of the design team for the NHP redevelopment?

Each of these issues requires an in-depth discussion and suitable resolution to ensure that the development of this and other public amenities is undertaken in the best interest of the current and future generations of the country. The LA profession is one of the design professions mandated to pioneer the balance of social, economic and environmental issues in the design process, which is the foundation of sustainable development. The local LA fraternity is available to have dialogue with the UDC and prime minister with the aim of achieving the best possible outcome for the development as well as to make our contribution to nation building.

The Jamaica Landscape Architecture Fraternity

Jenna Blackwood

Ruth Loewe

Mark Martin

Mary-Anne Rickham Twyman

Suzanne Spence

Viridis.consultants@gmail.com