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PM tours area in Bernard Lodge where houses being demolished

Prime Minister Andrew Holness, Urban Planner Dr. Carol Archer and social and political commentator Howard Mitchell
 
Prime Minister Andrew Holness visited the community near Clifton in Bernard Lodge, St. Catherine on Friday morning.
 
Mr. Holness toured the area a day after crews demolished about 10 illegal structures on lands that are under the purview of the Sugar Company of Jamaica (SCJ) Holdings and are designated for agricultural purposes.
 
Prime Minister Holness told Parliament on Wednesday that gangsters had been selling the lands under pretext of ownership, or building on them.
 
Speaking with residents in the area Friday morning, the Prime Minister acknowledged their fears regarding the demolition but reassured them that they would not be "left out". 
 
He explained to them that the informal community was without the proper infrastructure - including road network, water and sewer lines - and appealed for them to allow development to take place in a structured way.
 
"Let us change from this way of settlement to go to a different way of settlement where things are orderly. But we won't leave you out," he promised. 
 
 
Preventive measures needed 
 
Urban Planner Dr. Carol Archer has said she is not in support of the demolition of houses near Clifton in St. Catherine as the provision of affordable shelter is a right of all Jamaicans.
 
Speaking Friday on the Morning Agenda on Power 106, Dr. Archer said there will be a repeat of illegal settlements across the country if the government does not put the necessary preventive programmes in place.
 
She has suggested the enactment of legislation to formalise settlement arrangements, especially on former sugar lands, so that the government does not have to demolish buildings but can "leave people to having adequate shelter". 
 
Dr. Archer noted that the majority of houses being constructed in the country are for middle and upper income earners, while there is not enough for the poor and working poor, where the demand for housing is greatest. 
 
She argued that the desperation for shelter is forcing people to make unwise and unsafe decisions.
 
Dr. Archer insisted the public should be told about the processes which led to the eviction of residents near Clifton.
 
She suggested that, had the SCJ Holdings monitored what was happening on its land, the company could have acted differently to address the illegal settlement or "nip it in the bud before it got to this stage". 
 
Prime Minister Andrew Holness told the House of Representatives on Wednesday that notices to cease and desist construction were served on individuals who were found to be constructing illegal structures near Clifton.
 
Some of the residents have denied this.
 
Devise policy 
 
Social and political commentator Howard Mitchell also believes there is need for a policy to address the growing problem of squatting in Jamaica.
 
Mr. Mitchell said more attention needs to be given to this issue which has been fueling crime and violence in some instances. 
 
He argued that the more than 600,000 people in Jamaica who are residing on land not belong to them, mostly live in sub-human conditions. 
 
Mr. Mitchell called it a failure of the state to allow for the development of informal communities for political gain.


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