Sun | Oct 2, 2022

Letter of the Day | Zoning of Bernard Lodge/Innswood Estate threatens food security

Published:Friday | September 9, 2022 | 12:06 AM


The Advocates Network (AN) remain concerned that the Bernard Lodge and Innswood Estate lands currently slated for government development to accommodate future population growth of the Kingston Metropolitan Area (KMA) threatens Jamaica’s food security. These Estate lands have brought to the forefront the need for open public conversation, engagement, and discourse by the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) on the national spatial plans and on the confirmation of the various parish development orders.

The AN took note of The Gleaner’s clarification (September 6) that the Board of Sugar Company of Jamaica (SCJ) Holdings approved the lease of 2,758 acres of the Innswood Estate on July 5, 2019. Of that amount, 1,218 acres were zoned for residential development. We further note that the Town and Country Planning (St Catherine Area) Provisional Development Order, 2017, which was confirmed on July 4, 2019, clearly states: “…Development which will cause a loss of productive agricultural land or reduce the viability of farm buildings will not be permitted unless it can be demonstrated that the need for the development overrides agricultural considerations and no alternative site on non-agricultural land is available...” (Policy RAP 2 p. 636).

The AN maintain that this justification required for “a loss of productive agricultural land” should be shared with the public to clarify the reasons for the residential zoning. We also maintain that the confirmation of the 2017 Kingston and Saint Andrew and the Pedro Cays Provisional Development Order that is still outstanding will enable the identification of adequate alternative sites for residential development than the use of these prime agricultural lands in the St Catherine Area.

Recognising that farmers who worked on many of the sugar estates were issued eviction notices and driven off the land to enable large-scale lease and/or sale of these estates, the AN call on the Government to comply urgently with outstanding commitments made to displaced farmers. We also urge a careful review of the Government’s policies and practices to enable adequate, equitable and transparent access to land.

Considering the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ukraine war, and enhanced global warming and climate change, our LOUD cry is for these lands to be rezoned from residential back to their original use for diverse agriculture to strengthen Jamaica’s food security.