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Bernard Lodge sugar lands to be converted to new town

Published:Friday | March 23, 2018 | 12:00 AMAvia Collinder
In this May 2016 photo, a rider makes his way laong the Bernard Lodge main road, overlooking a section of Highway 2000. A master plan has been developed to transform old sugar lands at Bernard Lodge into a new town.
The Bernard Lodge Sugar factory in St Catherine, as seen May 11, 2006. The estate is to be transformed into a new town for which a master plan has already been developed.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced that Cabinet has approved the Bernard Lodge Land Use Master Plan for the development of an urban community in the area once dedicated solely to sugar cane and sugar manufacture.

The new development calls for an integrated urban centre with the provision of shared infrastructure services, residential housing, commercial offices and light industrial operations.

Holness, who provided the update during his contribution to the Budget Debate in Parliament on March 20, said the planned community will benefit from greater densities, ranging from 50 to 100 habitable rooms per acre, and will involve buildings ranging from four to six storeys.

The former Bernard Lodge Estate - whose lands were once dedicated to sugar cane, a rum distillery, and later used for ethanol production - is located 21 miles from Kingston and 15 miles from Spanish Town.

The Financial Gleaner requested further information from the Office of the Prime Minister on the project, including the identity of the spearheading agency and financing, but no responses have been forthcoming.

Still, projects of this nature typically include the Urban Development Corporation and the National Environment & Planning Agency (NEPA), which has authority over town and country planning.

Chad Allen, acting director of planning in the St Catherine Municipal Corporation said Wednesday he would not comment on the project as the plan was presented to them by NEPA on a confidential basis.

PM Holness said some 17,000 housing solutions are expected to materialise under the plan for the new town.

"Over the years, a piecemeal approach has been taken to development on those lands. In response to many applications by developers to purchase this land for housing, the Government decided that a master plan for the entire area should be done before any sale of land was approved and that the developers would be tied to the development plan and be required to pay an impact fee towards infrastructure development such as roads and sewerage," the PM told parliamentarians.

He added that the Bernard Lodge master plan was formulated after extensive research and data gathering, and the completion of studies, inclusive of a rapid environmental impact assessment, regional and spatial analysis, transportation and traffic assessments, and drainage.

Efforts have been made in the past to execute a large scale project at Bernard Lodge by the Housing Agency of Jamaica (HAJ). In 2013, Cabinet endorsed the construction of 604 one-bedroom units and 980 studio units, with associated infrastructure, on the approximately 295 acres of land left over from the construction of Highway 2000.

The largest project undertaken by the HAJ, it was to have been financed and constructed by foreign developer Malphrus, with a capital outlay of approximately $5.6 billion to be expended over three years.

However, the project stalled as the developer failed to secure an agreement from TransJamaican Highway, operators of Highway 2000, for the construction of storm water drainage.

Subsequently, the Jamaican Government indicated it would sign a new partnership agreement with Herzog Jamaica Limited, after termination of the previous agreement with Malphrus.

However, the project was eventually shelved, a HAJ representative said Wednesday.