The National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) is urging private developers, planners, architects, engineers and other stakeholders to provide for the needs of all members of society when designing and implementing development and infrastructure projects and programmes.
The call comes as Jamaica joins the rest of the world in celebrating World Town Planning Day on November 8 under the theme, "Equality in the City: Making Cities Socially Cohesive".
Social inclusion and cohesion refers to equal access to public services and resources by all socio-economic groups. These include services such as education, housing, health and social protection.
Currently, NEPA uses a number of policies, programmes and legislation to review and guide its recommendations for development proposals.
Aisha Bedasse, Manager of NEPA's Applications Processing Branch said the Agency, in its assessment of developments submitted for permits and licences, works as much as possible to ensure the developments recommended for approval are non-discriminatory.
"A successfully planned city is not biased to any one group but includes the needs of all its members. In reviewing development proposals, every effort is made to ensure that there are adequate amenities for persons who buy into such developments. One such amenity is the provision of open space. A focus is also to encourage developments that are age-friendly - for the young and elderly - and that there are facilities for the physically challenged," she said.
The Applications Manager noted that a number of conditions are included in the various approvals that are granted. Some conditions which seek to address the issue of social inclusion and cohesion include the reservation of parking spaces for the physically challenged, which should be clearly demarcated.
In an effort to achieve further social cohesion, Leonard Francis, Director Spatial Planning Division at NEPA said the Agency consults with a wide cross section of the population before writing or approving development plans.
The Agency, he said, welcomes comments and views from community based groups, government and non-government organizations, private sector and the local parish authorities. This, he said, is evident in the extensive consultations that are done in designing the island's Development Orders.
The island's latest promulgated Development Orders - Negril/Green Island Area, Portland, Manchester and Trelawny - make provision for equal access to basic amenities and services in the identified urban centres/communities. The Development Orders, Mr. Francis noted are used to provide guidance on planning conditions and development applications. He urged developers to adhere to the stipulations of the Development Orders to achieve more socially cohesive urban settlements.
"NEPA is promoting growth centres and as much as possible reducing further urban sprawl. By actively being part of the development process, the government is able to secure the relevant basic social services such as transportation, police stations, post offices, libraries, markets, financial institutions, health centres and educational facilities for all citizens," he said.
The Spatial Planning Director also called for private developers to cater to persons of all socio-economic groups when designing housing projects.
"Social segregation and exclusion can be reduced by designing mixed-income developments which comprise a mix of homes for high, middle and lower income groups," he recommended.
To celebrate World Town Planning Day, NEPA and its partners will host a symposium and exhibition on Friday 7 November at the National Housing Trust.
The forum will outline government policies in several areas, engage discussion on several of these and propose new ones to address issues related to equality in the city.
NEPA will also have career talks at secondary and tertiary educational institutions in Kingston and St. Catherine.
The week of activities will culminate with a worship service at the Andrews Memorial Seventh Day Adventist Church in St. Andrew on Saturday, 8 November.
Leonard Francis, Director of Spatial Planning Division at NEPA.
Paul Campbell, Sixth form student at Kingston College makes notes about proper planning while Leonard Francis, Director of Spatial Planning Division at NEPA gives a career talk on planning on Wednesday, November 5.
Isau Bailey (left), Physical Planner at NEPA discusses with a sixth form student at Cedar Grove High School in St. Catherine about the subject requirements to pursue a career in planning during a career talk presentation at the school on Wednesday, November 5.