Mon | May 10, 2021

Gov’t to regularise former sugar lands as squatters move in

Published:Saturday | January 23, 2021 | 12:13 AMLeon Jackson/Gleaner Writer

Western Bureau:

Squatters who have built houses on former sugar lands at Parnassus in Trelawny will soon be required to pay for the plots as the Government moves to establish a structure under which the lands will be used for housing and agriculture.

“This area was slated for housing development by the Housing Agency of Jamaica (HAJ) years ago,” said Agriculture Minister Floyd Green yesterday as he toured the area along with HAJ representatives and Trelawny Southern Member of Parliament Marisa Dalrymple-Philibert.

“Nothing happened and an informal settlement developed. Today I am taking a first-hand look at the situation so it can be determined how best the existing situation can be rectified.”

The section of land in question is part of the 3,600 acres of land owned by the Government and is being managed by the Sugar Company of Jamaica (SCJ), which has been given the mandate to ensure that the lands are used constructively to the benefit of the State and former sugar workers.

Parnassus housing solutions

As it relates to the Parnassus lands, Green said that his ministry is currently in discussions with the National Housing Trust (NHT) and the HAJ about plans to create housing solutions in the area.

“The plan is to identify lands which are more suitable for housing and that which are suitable for agriculture,” said Green.

“What will happen is that there will be an exchange between agriculture and housing. NHT has so far identified 1,300 acres of land which they own. It is now for us to identify lands that we have. In the case of these lands at Parnassus, there will have to be a system worked out where these people who have constructed houses and have occupied the land for years are given titles and arrangements made for them to pay.”

HAJ Managing Director Gary Howell said there is an urgent need to regularise the lands in question as there is will be a great need for housing based on major investments slated for Trelawny.

“There is a serious deficiency of housing solutions in the parish. There is a massive construction of hotel rooms. People are going to come for employment. There will then be a need for housing. We at HAJ will now have to build to satisfy the need,” said Howell.

“I am from the area. I can remember when all the houses you are looking on were canefields,” Dalrymple-Philibert said.

“The canefields have been replaced by this informal situation. The Government, however, is prepared to formalise the situation. This will give the occupants security of tenure. Once they have titles, they can use it to improve their situation,” the member of parliament said.