Fri | Jul 19, 2019

O. Dave Allen out of touch with Canterbury development

Published:Monday | September 24, 2018 | 12:00 AM
A section of the community of Canterbury in St James.

The following statement by Richard Vernon, businessman and councillor for the Montego Bay South Division, is in response to an article published in The Gleaner.

On September 16, 2018, while I was waiting for my flight to Colombia to attend the annual mayors' meeting and seminar on inclusive cities in MedellÌn, I came across an article in The Gleaner published on the same day. The article was written by one of the standouts of the Patterson administration, O. Dave Allen, entitled, 'Is Canterbury the new Chinatown?' He posits that the community of Canterbury, which is a small geographic space in my division, is about to undergo gentrification because of the plans Government has for it.

I was going to let it go with the wind, but such innuendos must not go unanswered, especially with the sensitive sociopolitical nature of his motive. The Canterbury project is not to create a new "Chinatown", and the use of the term "Gentrification" to analyse the interventions is way out of context. If one understand the real issues the people of the densely populated area face, then one will understand the need for the relocation of some.


Social Inclusion


The planning is not for gentrification, which usually displace the poorer class, as Mr Allen wants us to believe. In fact, it is social inclusion. Social inclusion, as the World Bank explains, "is the process of improving the terms on which individuals and groups take part in society - improving the ability, opportunity and dignity of those disadvantaged on the basis of their identity". This is exactly what is taking place in the process, and I have been on the ground through every step of this process since assuming the office of councillor.


Positive Intervention


It is true that Canterbury has been marred by high levels of crime and violence in the past and has been affected by same to a lesser extent today. It is also true that Canterbury has a high level of unemployment, poor housing infrastructure, poor planning and also low access to community.

The truth is, many of its residents, especially those living along the embankment of North Gully, and, if I may, the neighbouring communities of Albion Lane and William Street as well, are vulnerable to flooding and landslides. Due to these realities, Canterbury has suffered immensely from fires, heavy rains and lack of access to emergency units and proper solid-waste removal. The citizens are oftentimes marginalised in the workplace and stigmatised in such a way that decreases their possibility of employment. Whilst the community has produced many successful individuals, most of the population has been relegated to hustling and below-minimum-wage employment. What do we do? Leave them to diminish under this unfortunate situation? The Government of today will not allow this to happen. Therefore, Dr Horace Chang has announced relocation in light of gaining access to the community to improve the livelihood of its members.


Moving Forward


The process of relocation will not lend to the construction of homes that residents cannot afford, and neither will it create a spiral in real-estate value to displace the less fortunate. In fact, the topic of relocation is one that has been progressively elaborated by the Government, both at the central and local levels, not excluding the involvement of the residents through the many surveys and community meetings.

The relocation is intended to give way to an access road leading into the community and to preserve the lives of residents who could only afford to settle on 'gully banks' due to the lack of opportunities, employment and inclusion over the past 35 years. Relocation and access through social inclusion will see the creation of community centres, increase in youth programmes, improvement in housing, ease of access to the community by emergency units, easier passage through the community, and infrastructural improvement in housing and fencing.

Relocation 2000 was a totally different project that addressed different issues and was a failed project, based on the outcome. In fact, if you call the National Housing Trust today, they will not be able to present either documentation or information on that project administered under the Patterson government. Why did the information disappear?

To successfully improve a community holistically, social inclusion must be at the heart. We aim to preserve the identity of the inhabitants and at the same time improve the economic and social opportunities of the people. Canterbury will be the new model for urban inclusion of inner-city communities, not Chinatown. Alas, Miss Mavis couldn't be in better hands.

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