Patricia Green | Discontinue development duplicity
This year, the construction industry shall remain buoyant. This shall augur well for citizens’ associations and neighbourhood communities that are organised and vigilant. Citizens shall know their rights and enforce their covenants while at the same time developing and improving property values and their neighbourhoods. The development sector shall become orderly through the activism of strong and alert citizens operating in one accord.
The governmental authorities shall encourage and facilitate local residents desiring to undertake developments in their neighbourhoods, including those in concert with outside developers, without undue hindrances and delays.
Jamaica’s capital, with its historic urban landscape of downtown Kingston, shall be regenerated in 2022. Its heritage footprint shall be revitalised along urban development guidelines without partisan divisions that shall include diversified residential communities. This is critical to any successful urban restoration exercise. Residential integration across all sectors must be allowed inside what I am calling the Downtown Kingston Heritage Capital.
Implement in 2022 the public-private-partnership strategy already formulated and approved since 2017 through the combined efforts of downtown stakeholders and residents. This strategy allows for keeping the historic footprint of the Heritage Capital, with much of its historic urban fabric instead of any currently pending demolitions slated for inside the Heritage Capital to make way for high-rise speculative projects that are currently failing globally and are also scientifically unsustainable, with high carbon footprints increasing global warming and intensifying climate change. Do citizens wish to continue watching the shorelines of Jamaica recede evidenced by the rapid disappearance of Healthshire beach in the Kingston Harbour? Note that the proper name on historic maps and documents is “Healthshire”. So where did ‘Hellshire’ come from?
KEY TO ECONOMIC VIABILITY
Kingston waterfront, and the vital market district of downtown Kingston are key seeds to the economic viability of the Heritage Capital, which is typical to all downtowns globally. Therefore, refurbish in 2022 the unoccupied office building on the waterfront opposite the Jamaica Stock Exchange to become a vibrant mixed development for residential and boutique hotels with commercial activities.
Critically, the minister shall appoint in 2022 a suitably qualified dedicated government town planner, which has become extremely long overdue. Sadly, filling this gap has been outstanding and tremendously critical. He/she shall be allowed to function professionally for the goodwill of all citizens, in the general interest of the nation, and allowed to execute the job without undue interface. Bring this office on stream expeditiously for the effective growth and development of the construction industry.
Most important for 2022, the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) 2017 Provisional Development Order shall be confirmed. NEPA and the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation along with other municipalities across Jamaica shall conduct business in compliance with the law. They should ensure that they operate within their designated and mandated functions.
This year, Jamaica celebrates its 60th Independence anniversary, yet the primary legislation for the governance of the Jamaica construction industry is The Town and Country Planning Law 42 of 1957, and this precedes Independence. “Therefore, as part of the 60th anniversary, should a revision process of the T&CP Law be undertaken?” Critically there are two key instruments attached to this 1957 act: first,the confirmed 1966 Development Order (DO); second, the 2017 Provisional Development Order (PDO).
Understand that the birth of Jamaica town-planning stemmed from Otto Koenigsberger (1909-1999), one of the founders of modern urban development planning of rapidly growing cities of Africa, Asia, and Latin America. In 1953, Koenigsberger, after a short period as a research fellow at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in London, became senior adviser to the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations and took over the Department of Development and Tropical Studies at the Architectural Association School of Architecture (AA). This department at the AA published the seminal Manual of Tropical Housing and Building: Climatic Design.
During this period, the UK was assigning to their colonies in the tropics planning professionals to establish urban development and governance authorities. Koenigsberger, considered the father of urban planning, developed an ‘Action Planning’ concept that received immediate intellectual and professional acclaim and which remains widely accepted internationally. He tested and refined this in Singapore in the 1950s – in this atmosphere of changes and action planning, the Jamaica T&CP Law was promulgated.
The first government town planner was David Wilson Spreull (1911-1995) who trained at Liverpool School of Architecture and was part of developing countries’ town-planning movement. He was assigned to Jamaica by the UK government in the 1940s and worked until 1965. Charles [Bill] Hodges, a graduate of the AA who also studied town planning, succeeded Spreull. By 1962, the year of Jamaica’s independence, Neil Richards and Kingsley Robotham were the first Jamaicans to enter the AA to study architecture under the Tropical Architecture Department. Both returned to the island and spent some professional years working at the office of the Government Town Planner.
Arguing in his 1950s concept of ‘Action Planning’, Koenigsberger proposed that the planning process should start by defining a broad “guiding concept” for the future development of a city. This for Jamaica became the 1966 DO, also the 2017 PDO. Continuing was a process of ‘surveillance’ set up by the local authority to continuously monitor progress and change. This was necessary to create a live organisation, preferably anchored in the structure of local government, constantly expected to deal with planning problems and to keep the basic conception of the plan alive.
Here lies the spirit and precedence of Section #11 of the Jamaica 1957 T&CP Act that the KSAMC and other municipal corporations as the ‘local authority’ to which applications are made for permission to develop land may grant permission “unconditionally or subject to such conditions as they think fit, or may refuse permission”. Further, the local planning authority “shall have regard to the provisions of the development order”’, namely, the 1966 DO, also the 2017 PDO.
Koenigsberger emphasised that the city planning [Town and Country] authority would then play a dynamic role in promoting and steering private-sector investment and in supporting community initiatives to ensure that in partnership, the ‘guiding concept’ for development was kept to the benefit of all those with a stake in the future of the city.
This all echoes participatory planning, full inclusion, and involvement of citizens. The concept of ‘Action Planning’ continues globally. Yet after over 60 years in Jamaica, it has deteriorated into duplicity. The Oxford Dictionary defines duplicity as “dishonest behaviour that is intended to make somebody believe something that is not true”. It is vital to discontinue development duplicity as a nation about to celebrate its diamond anniversary. In 2022, we shall hold good anticipation.
- Patricia Green, PhD, is a registered architect, a graduate of the Architectural Association School of Architecture and former head of the Caribbean School of Architecture in the Faculty of the Built Environment at University of Technology, Jamaica. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.