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Dumfries sees no development five years after announced plans

Published:Tuesday | March 7, 2017 | 12:00 AMChristopher Thomas
In this 2011 photo, Edmund Bartlett (left), Member of Parliament for East Central St. James and Joseph Shoucair, former managing director of the Housing Agency of Jamaica, in front of a sign portraying the $2 billion township development plans for Dumfries in St. James.
In this 2011 photo, Edmund Bartlett (second left), Member of Parliament for East Central St. James, stands with residents of Dumfries in St. James, where development work to transform the community into a major town was to have begun in 2012.


Although five years have passed since Member of Parliament for East Central St James, Edmund Bartlett announced plans to develop the community of Dumfries into a satellite town, the area remains stagnant with no development in sight. On any given day, the Dumfries community square is largely empty and devoid of activity, contradicting a large billboard in the square that features the development project design for the planned township, which was slated to be overseen by the Housing Agency of Jamaica at the time of its unveiling in December 2011. The project would have included the construction of 125 housing and commercial lots.

Last year, when the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) won the general election on February 25, Bartlett announced that he would seek to reignite the development project, which had been slated to start in 2012 at a cost of J$2 billion, but had been shelved due to the People's National Party reclaiming power at the time.

"We still have the programme to do, and I am going after it," Bartlett said in reference to the Dumfries development, shortly after the JLP's victory at the polls. "I am working on the funding, and it is going to possibly be a joint venture. We are just trying to put things together, but one thing I can tell you is that we're going to do it."

Bartlett had also said that before the development could get under way, he would be solving the water problem there.

"Ahead of that is the Canaan water source that we want to build, and to expand the pumps so we do not have any problems with water for the whole of that area. That was an election promise and a campaign undertaking, so we are going to do what we have to do," he said at the time.


Not convinced


But with five years having elapsed since the initial announcement, and one year since Bartlett gave the recommitment to the Dumfries development, not everyone in the community is convinced that Bartlett will follow through on his promises.

One resident, Crystal Campbell, was blunt in her assessment of the situation, citing Bartlett's lack of presence in the area as a reason the development would not be fulfilled.

"I do not think he [Bartlett] will do it. I think that plan will be just an idea on a billboard. He is never here, how is he going to fulfil something like that?" asked Campbell. "Better yet, why would he? Plans like those are suitable for persons who can adapt to progress and think for themselves."

Another resident, Tameika Mullings, admitted that she was optimistic when she first saw the development plans, but since then, her hopes have waned.


Disappointment lingers


"Initially, when I saw the plans, I was hopeful. They had planned to have a commercial lot there, and it was that that I was interested in," said Mullings. "I haven't seen any moves or heard any talks or any information in recent times, so I am not really sure of what is happening with that project. I would like that the development happens but until more info is given about it, I do not know what to think, if that is happening."

In 2011, Bartlett had said the project would transform Dumfries into a major township, and that 25 of the 125 housing lots would be reserved for commercial sites.

He said 50 acres of land had been plotted for the plan and would also include the construction of a central sewage-treatment plant, commercial facilities, and the improvement of the local community centre.

He had also said the Dumfries development would be a precursor to plans to transform the neighbouring community of Adelphi into a satellite town.

"What we're looking at is a wider development area for Adelphi, which will create a new corridor for commercial and residential development ...We will be looking at heavy infrastructure and certainly stronger commercial development, as well as a road-network system that will form the natural alternative route to the north coast from Fairfield in St James," Bartlett said at the time.