Hutchinson defends using agricultural lands for housing
Amid increasing concerns over the use of arable lands for housing and other developments, Minister without Portfolio J.C. Hutchinson has defended the Government’s move, saying it is for the greater good of the nation.
The most recent controversy was ignited by the Government’s decision to use some of the land on the Bernard Lodge estates in St Catherine to develop a township, for which the prime minister has ordered a review. The plan, which involves the provision of infrastructure services, residential housing, commercial offices and light industrial operations, will utilise approximately 2,338.5 acres of the mammoth property.
“We have to look at a total development of our country, and if it means that part of the land can be used for the further development for aspects of our economy, then we would have to be using part of the land, if that is so,” said Hutchinson, who was one of the main speakers at Saturday’s fourth staging of the Hanover Agricultural Show in Lucea.
“But otherwise, my take on it is that all good agricultural land should remain in farming, but in that particular one, we have to look at the long-term benefits that might accrue from what is going to happen,” the state minister added, pointing out that the planned development could also benefit farmers in the area and the wider community.
Cabinet has already approved a land use master plan for the development, which will see the remaining lands – more than 2,000 acres – dedicated to agriculture.
“Many people feel that once agriculture does not grow, the country cannot grow,” said Hutchinson, who urged Hanoverians to identify idle government lands in the parish and report same to the Rural Agricultural Development Authority, with a view to getting more young people into agriculture.
Jamaica Agricultural Society President Lenworth Fulton has objected to the housing plans for the Bernard Lodge plains. While Fulton was not present in Lucea on Saturday, Owen Dobson, his second vice-president, said the society remains concerned over the change in land use.