Tuesday 24 November, 2020

Vaz withdraws, clears the air on controversial Holywell development

Daryl Vaz

Daryl Vaz

Minister with responsibility for the environment, Daryl Vaz has moved to clear the air on a potentially controversial development he had planned to undertake near the ecologically sensitive Holywell Park in the Blue Mountains.

Following objections from the Jamaica Conservation Development Trust (JCDT), Vaz scrapped plans to develop a 7.7 acre property near the park. He had intended to build log cabins, as well as plant coffee on the property.

Vaz had argued that there are several other properties in and around Holywell Park on which log cabins are built and on which coffee is grown. Vaz had intended to lease the 7.7 acre property from the National Land Agency (NLA) at $120,000 per year for 25 years.

According to media reports on Tuesday, Vaz shelved the idea as soon as he learned of objections raised by the managers of the Blue and John Crown Mountains National Park within which the property falls and which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Following the reports, Vaz released a statement via his Twitter page confirming that he had abandoned the project. He explained the processes involved and his reason for shelving the project.

The minister, who has responsibility for the environment, explained that in 2017, he applied to the NLA for a parcel of approximately 10 acres of land at Mountain Horeb (opposite Holywell Park on the boundary of his West Portland constituency and St Andrew.

He said the application was done in his name in the interest of  transparency and openness and that his intention was to construct a log cabin and plant coffee.

“It must be noted that there are several existing log cabins/dwellings and coffee farms in and around Holywell Park,” Vaz noted.

He said the NLA responded and pointed out that the Forestry Department did not support the location and advised him to consider other possible locations.

Vaz said that in 2019, after some time spent identifying other sites he again applied to NLA for another parcel of 7.7 acres adjoining the Holywell Park. He emphasised that this is in an area where there are existing log cabins.

“The application was deemed suitable by the Forestry Department with conditions that no coffee be planted and that the access to the property be outside of the Holywell Park.

My proposed use of lease was in keeping with the already-existing environmentally friendly Holywell Park-type cabins,” said Vaz.

He explained further that the unsolicited application was subsequently taken to the land divestment committee which took the decision that the land should be advertised for bids. This was done on May 20, 2020 with a June deadline.

On June 11, the JCDT, after seeing the notice by the NLA, wrote a letter objecting to the proposed lease.

“Following receipt of the objection, I immediately wrote to the NLA, on June 11, withdrawing my offer submitted on June 4 2020.

“It must be noted that there are several leases of hundreds of acres between the National Land Agency and individuals/companies including coffee farms/cafes and dwellings in and around Holywell Park as is this 7.7 acres.

“Despite carefully following the guidelines and procedures, knowing the sensitivity of my position, I have however considered the objections, experience and expertise of the JCDT which led to the withdrawal of my interest in this request for proposal,” Vaz concluded.

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