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Patricia Green | Time to get serious about compliance Time to get serious about compliance

Published:Sunday | July 10, 2022 | 12:08 AM
Crews work in the rubble at the Champlain Towers South Condo, June 27, 2021, in Surfside, Florida.  Why the building collapsed is still under investigation.
Crews work in the rubble at the Champlain Towers South Condo, June 27, 2021, in Surfside, Florida. Why the building collapsed is still under investigation.

“Jamaica urgently needs to adopt an integrated approach to the planning and management of urban spatial development if sustainable urban development is to be achieved,” penned consummate Urban and Regional Planner Pauline McHardy, in a letter to Jamaica Observer on July 26, 2016. She called on Prime Minister Andrew Holness to “enact national town-planning strategy before third city”.

She continued, “Current planning approaches with emphasis on the development industry have failed to address important planning issues which would be integral components of a national spatial strateg” .This is an urgent cry even more applicable today. Her seminal textbook, Urban and Regional Planning in Jamaica, is required reading internationally.

Sadly, Jamaica learned of the passing of McHardy on July 3. Colleagues say she had a brilliant mind, was a real professional and academically great, believing in the purity of her profession. With a passion for innovative solutions for housing in marginalised communities, she became chief technical adviser at the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements, in addition to holding various key responsibilities (1976-1990) in Jamaica government planning sectors.

National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) spatial planning director, Leonard Francis, presented at the Jamaica Development Association (JDA) ‘Real Estate Development Webinar’ on June 30. He addressed the theme ‘Promulgation of Provisional Development Orders,’ and emphasised “a development order is a legal document prepared under the Town and Country Planning (TCP) Act 1957 that is used to guide development in the area to which it applies”. Further, that a Provisional Development Order (PDO) “can be used as material consideration for decision-making purposes”.


McHardy’s 2016 letter listed some urban design and urban planning principles; (1) sustainable management of land and natural resources; (2) directing of urban growth to ensure equitable, efficient and sustainable use of land and natural resources and prevent urban sprawl; (3) strengthened role of small and intermediate cities and towns; (4) planning strategies that support affordable and sustainable housing; and (5) environmentally sustainable and resilient cities and human settlements. Leonard Francis reinforced these in his presentation.

A panel discussion followed his presentation, where Attorney-at Law Rose Bennett-Cooper expounded that the Planning Act would be inapplicable to that geographic location “where there is no confirmed Development Order” and that an unconfirmed Development Order “has no legal efficacy, so you cannot say it is in breach of the Planning Act”. She posited, “If the PDO is not the legal development order, of no legal validity under the Planning Act in the absence of a confirmed Order, why is it relevant or important in the approval process?”

Such legal depositions during this webinar with over 700 attendees seemed to have overshadowed fundamental principles of urban and rural planning. Reforming Urban Laws in Africa: A Practical Guide by Stephen Berrisford and Patrick McAuslan, links development pressures, implementation capacity and political environments. “As a result, citizens and officials became adept at sidestepping the law and introducing their own approaches, which were innovative and practical but often also unlawful,” he said.

To understand the depth of technical and scientific outputs as guidelines for development practice, visit the 2007 ‘Volume 1 Section 1 Planning and Development: The Responsibility of the NEPA’ (268 pages plus Figures and Appendices); 2013 ‘Natural Resources Conservation (Wastewater and Sludge) Regulations’ (118 pages); 2017 ‘Town and Country Planning (Kingston and Saint Andrew and the Pedro Cays) Provisional Development Order’ (596 pages plus embedded high-resolution digital maps).

The current TCP Act is over 65 years old, the Kingston confirmed Development Order (DO) over 56 years, with its PDO over five years. Some citizens have been issued density maps by NEPA and told that there is a new 2018 PDO for Kingston. Why the secrecy? Any new PDO should follow public consultations as set out under Sections 5 and 6 of the 1957 TCP Act.

Confirmation of a DO is straightforward according to the TCP Act 1957 Section 7(2) “where the Minister is satisfied that the implementation of any provisional development order is likely to be in the public interest he may by notification published in the Gazette confirm it with or without modification and thereupon such order with or without modification shall come into operation as a confirmed development order.”

Successive governments must be held accountable for failing to confirm PDOs, and the Jamaica Building codes associated with the 2018 Building Act governing KSAMC permits.

UN Habitat’s Urban Law Tools Volume 1: Planning Law Assessment Framework outlines “architects, planners, and building code legislators in low-income countries must abandon the approach of imitating the architecture of high-income countries. When building codes are made locally specific, compliance with green building codes is affordable for all, and thus adequately incentivized”.


Jamaica building codes should constitute time-tested safety features with earthquake and hurricane resilience. The Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) makes these recommendations for buildings: (a) check thoroughly the roof of your house, hurricane shutters, hooks and latches and repair where necessary; (b) make sure that galvanised sheeting on the roof of your house is properly fastened. However, with neighbourhoods sprouting highrise constructions across Kingston, has the ODPEM developed concomitant hurricane preparation strategies for all citizens?

The Washington Post article, ‘Still a nightmare: Surfside families mark one year since collapse’, by Lori Rozsa and Luis Velarde, was published on June 24. The 12-storey Champlain Towers South suddenly imploded and collapsed, and 98 people lost their lives. “Lawsuits filed against more than 25 entities, including the Champlain Towers South condo association, as well as engineers and developers of a building next door, have been settled.” On June 23, a judge made a $1.2 billion final settlement to families who lost loved ones, also to survivors of the collapse, $96 million. Some of these payments came from the $120 million sale of the former apartment site to Dubai-based developer Damac. Why the building collapsed is still under investigation, costing $22 million, and might lead to new national building codes with more frequent building inspections.

“To ensure that all highrise buildings of 10 floors and over in the Corporate Area are structurally sound,” reports the Jamaica Observer of April 22, the KSAMC Building and Town Planning Committee wants an engineering report for each structure. Surely this should be a prerequisite for all buildings! Some new developments carry suspended swimming pools, even on a third or fourth-floor roof.

The Jamaica Institution of Engineers conducted a webinar, ‘Developers Forum Series 2022 Segment 4’, on June 30, and expressed that they have been making repeated creative suggestions, still untapped, to the KSAMC to use their expertise in the approval and inspection processes.

Citizens are now asking, how prepared is the nation for likely disasters, including the 2022 hurricane season from June to November?

Patricia Green, PhD, a registered architect and conservationist, is an independent scholar and advocate for the built and natural environment. Send feedback to