Presented by Blossom Samuels at the Workshop on Landslide Hazard Mitigation and Loss Reduction with particular reference to the Kingston Metropolitan Area, Kingston, Jamaica 28 January 1999
In the Jamaican context three (3) major pieces of legislation can be readily identified which have a significant impact on the development of properties and ultimately the granting of permission to build. These are namely:
A brief examination of aspects of each of the legislation relevant to the whole issue of hazard mitigation and loss reduction will follow.
This legislation stipulates that in areas for which a Development Order has been prepared, planning permission is required from the Local Planning Authority before "development" as defined by the Act can be undertaken. In those areas for which no development orders have been prepared no planning permission is required to undertake development. The Development Order is therefore the legal document guiding development in Jamaica. These orders are prepared by the Town and Country Planning Authority in consultation with the Local Planning Authority (Parish Councils & KSAC). The Town and Country Planning Authority which is a body established under the Act can "call in" an area for which a development order has been prepared. In this instance the Town and Country Planning Authority has the jurisdiction to oversee all development applications if it so desires within that area. The areas "called in" are Portland Coast, St Mary Coast, Ocho Rios, Negril, and Westmoreland South East Coast.
Development Orders have been prepared for all the coastal areas of Jamaica except St James, Trelawny, Manchester, Clarendon and Westmoreland where the entire parishes are under the Town and Country Planning Act by virtue of having parish Development Orders. A special order exists for the Negril area. This order encompasses sections of the parishes of Westmoreland and Hanover. See map. Presently the Order for the parish of St Ann is being printed. Work on a new parish Order for Manchester is far advanced and likewise for the Negril area. Work has begun on the order for the parishes of Kingston and St Andrew. This order will replace the Kingston Development Order of 1966 which covered the parish of Kingston and a section of the parish of St Andrew. At present therefore sections of the parish of St Andrew are outside the ambit of the Town and Country Planning Act.
The subdivision of land throughout Jamaica is regulated under this Act. The Act stipulates that all subdivision of land for building or sale throughout Jamaica requires the permission of the local planning authority of the parish in which the land is located. The Act requires that the comments of the Chief Technical Director be obtained prior to the applicant being notified of the Parish Council's decision. By virtue of an amendment in 1959 the expert advice of the Government Town Planner is also required by the local authority prior to notification of applicants.
Construction of buildings in towns and any areas which may be delimited by the parish councils (Local Authority) is controlled under this legislation. The Parish Councils/KSAC are allowed to impose suitable conditions with regards to size, elevation, and structural integrity of buildings. To date regulations cover the principal towns of all the parishes. In those areas which have been delimited under the Building Act permission is to be obtained from the (Council/KSAC) before construction commences. The extent of the building area for which permission is required from persons desirous of constructing buildings in the Kingston area is larger than that delimited under the Town and Country Planning Act. It should be noted that sections of the parish of St Andrew are outside the jurisdiction of the Kingston and St Andrew Building Act.
In summary in areas where both acts occur an applicant needs both a planning permission and a building permit.
We will now take a brief look at the Town Planning Department.
The Town Planning Department is an advisory agency of Central Government and advises Local Planning Authorities & the Town & Country Planning Authority on the use of land. It was established in 1950 and its major role is to ensure the orderly and progressive development of both rural and urban areas in Jamaica in order to secure a proper balance between the competing demands for the use of land. The Department does NOT grant permission for developments it only makes recommendations to the Local Planning Authorities and the Town and Country Planning Authority.
The major functions are:
- The existence of conservation areas
- Slope categories
- Proximity of the site to gullies, streams, the coastline
- Reported occurrence of flooding.
Required in areas covered by Development Orders
This is required in town areas and any other area covered by the parish council building act.
Permission for subdivision of land throughout Jamaica is obtained under the Local Improvements Act.
The department requires/requests that applications submitted for subdivision of land should show:
Although the Department does not itself possess the expertise to assess subdivision applications based on their vulnerability to natural hazards it seeks to be informed by agencies with this capacity. Consequently all applications located in areas identified as being particularly vulnerable to natural hazards on a map of Disaster prone areas of Jamaica done in 1977 at a scale of 1:125,000 are sent to relevant agencies for their comments.
As a result, all subdivision applications submitted for the hilly areas of St Andrew e.g. Jacks Hill area are forwarded to the Geological Survey Division for its comments. Likewise all applications for Highgate and Preston land in St Mary and Cave Valley in St Ann are submitted for comments. In the case of flood prone areas the comments of ODPEM, NRCA are obtained prior to the Department's recommendations being made.
The Department has no specific established guidelines for development in landslide prone areas in Kingston except that of obtaining comments and conditions from agencies such as Geological Survey Division and the Natural Resources Conservation Authority and any other relevant agencies. As mentioned earlier these comments are taken into account when the application is being assessed. All subdivision applications received by the Department for areas such as Jacks Hill with a well known history of slope instability are submitted for the comments of the Geological Survey Division. Thus the Department is advised on the suitability of the sit for the proposed development as well as measures needed to make it suitable.
Where flooding is a likely hazard the Department seeks to be guided by the informed comments of the Ministry of Transport and Works, ODPEM and the NRCA.
In addition subdivision applications are received in area with streams, gullies, or along the coastline are submitted to the NRCA and the Environmental Control Division of the Ministry of Health for comments.
In areas however where the land is steep it is required that the MINIMUM size of a residential lot be (1/4 acre) 1012 sq metres. Where multifamily development is being contemplated in the hills of St Andrew the minimum lot size recommended by the Department is 0.8 hectares (2 acres).
Presently Building permission is not dealt with by the Town Planning Department. However applications within the building area of Kingston and St Andrew are required to conform to the stipulation of the National Building Code in relation to the earthquake hazard. Currently the use of hurricane straps is actively promoted. I am advised that plans submitted are required to show the use of hurricane straps in roofing where applicable.
The bulk of the new residential development in the KMA is occurring in the hilly terrain of St Andrew. Much of this area contains slopes which may be susceptible to land slippage. In many places careful observation by trained personnel reveals evidence of earlier slope failure which has almost been completely concealed due to revegetation.
The availability of maps depicting areas susceptible to slope failure and identifying the vulnerability of the Kingston Metropolitan Area to landslide hazard would assist in alerting planners to vulnerable areas for development. In fact it could possibly highlight that there are some areas which are unsuitable for intensive urban type development. Such areas would therefore be strong candidates for being left in as close to their natural state as possible.
Bearing in mind the expenditure and dislocation which often occur as a result of landslides such information would be useful to guide developers when undertaking their development on high risk landslide areas. Hence the inclusion of information on landslide susceptibility in the upcoming Kingston Development Order would be very useful.
The above information would help to assist planners in:
Information on landslide prone and other hazardous areas is critical to the planning process as this assists in better decision making with respect to the highest and best use of land.
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