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UDC responds to Observer article – Official Statement

Statement UDC Responds to Concerns of Forum Fishing Village Fisherfolk

The Urban Development Corporation (UDC) takes note of a recent article in the Observer “UDC chairman KD Knight has no answer for suffering fishermen” published July 21, 2014.

The UDC wishes to state that subsequent to the January 2014 sale of the Forum Hotel property in Portmore, St Catherine, Chairman K. D. Knight and a UDC team visited the location; spoke with settlers and thereafter a number of initiatives were developed to assist in the relocation of the informal settlers now occupying the property.

A decision was taken by the UDC Chairman and Board after consultation with the informal settlers to aid the fisher folk and to assist in the regularisation of the attendant commercial interests by establishing a new fishing village at Sector M East which is located on Port Henderson Road (Back Road), St Catherine.

In order to ensure that the interests of fisher folk and the commercial interests were safeguarded in the regularisation exercise, the various activities undertaken by the UDC included a structure count and social surveys which identified and recorded over a number of weeks the names of all fisher folk and commercial interests occupying the site.

The data collected from the surveys included the numbering of all the structures on site, recording of the fishing licence of individuals, and the names of the persons heading the entity, be it a fishing entity or a commercial enterprise. Photographs were also taken of persons who identified themselves as heading each establishment.

The surveys were aimed at capturing as much data as possible to verify the length of time that each fishing or business interest was located on the Forum Beach.

During the sensitization, Chairman Knight visited the site again and posed a question to the settlers as to the amount for relocation and a figure ranging from $30,000 to $60,000 was shared. The UDC then used that range and the Ministry of Housing Squatter Management Unit Guidelines to offer a Relocation Grant of $45,000 to each structure owner or Head of household.

Over the past six months, the UDC has engaged the fishing community in sensitisation sessions regarding the pending relocation and maintained regular communication with all interests located at the Forum Fishing Village. The most recent project sensitisation session was held at the Forum Beach on July 9, 2014 which was led by UDC’s General Manager Desmond Malcolm.

At this session, it was shared with the informal settlers that a relocation grant would be provided to assist with building their new commercial structures at Port Henderson Road.
The UDC has shared the design layout for the new fishing village which will include facilities for the fisher folk such as a separate fish-scaling area; a mooring section; and on-site fuel storage section.
Amenities for commercial entities will include 12 x 12 units to accommodate each commercial interest which was at the previous location. UDC will provide foundation for the structures and connection for utilities. The UDC further commits to marketing the new site so patrons will be aware of the Fishing Village.

In addition, there will be proper parking facilities; separate bathrooms and shower facilities; a garbage collection area and an approved sewerage disposal system.
The informal settlers were told of the date when the Notices to Quit would be issued to all beach occupants. It was emphasised that the new fishing village would not facilitate residential type accommodations.

This is a major project which will redound to the benefit of not only the fisher folk and the commercial enterprises but will have an impact on the social development of the area. The UDC has established guidelines to ensure a fair distribution of the relocation grant.

These guidelines included: making one payment only to each person who, based on the UDC surveys, heads a fishing interest or a commercial entity. Therefore, although a number of persons might have been involved with the area, they would not have been entitled to a grant. Additionally, if persons have two businesses on the beach, they would only get one payment.
The Corporation is surprised at the utterances seeing that some of the persons identified in the article met with the Chairman, the General Manager and other UDC staff at the time when agreements were arrived at about the relocation procedures.
In spite of the challenges noted by some individuals, the Corporation wishes to highlight that of the more than 140 fishing/commercial interests who have been registered, the majority collected their relocation grants recently in a process that went fairly smoothly.

The UDC commits to updating the Forum Beach settlers and all related entities regularly of the progress of the new fishing village which the Corporation is establishing for the benefit of the entire Portmore community.