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UDC Position Statement on Beach Access in Jamaica

Position of the Urban Development Corporation on Public Beaches
The Urban Development Corporation (UDC) has reviewed two articles recently published in the Gleaner entitled ‘Carolyn Cooper | No beach for local tourists’ and ‘Diana McCaulay | The problem of beach exclusion’ on January 8 and 11, 2017 respectively, as well as other dialogue relating to access to beaches.

Pearly Beach, St Ann
On the specific case of access to Pearly Beach, the UDC wishes to advise that this facility is operated as a public beach, accommodating a range of group excursions, from corporate gatherings to parties, weddings or any other group event. The Corporation has invested significant efforts in upgrading the Beach in line with the needs of our customers as derived from market research. There continues to be a high demand for this type of offering.

Details of the offerings can be obtained from the St Ann Development Company, which manages the beach on behalf of the UDC, Monday to Friday between the hours of 8:30 a.m. or 4:30 p.m. Persons interested in using the facility are therefore invited to make their bookings along with requisite payment to access this facility.

It must be noted that public access does not mean free access or unrestricted access. It refers to accessing the recreational facility free from discrimination and preserving the right to book once the facility is available, in the instance of Pearly Beach.

The UDC manages a number of public beaches across the island for the recreational enjoyment of patrons. The Corporation undertakes operational activities such as the provision of lifeguards, cleaning of the beach and other exigencies, for which nominal fees are in place. In some instances, these fees are subsidised up to 80% of market rates when compared with other privately operated facilities.

Our facilities allow patrons to provide their own picnics/snacks and in most instances have concessionaries on location for persons who would wish to use that option.

All beaches operated by the UDC have been given the requisite beach licences from the Natural Resources Conservation Authority (NRCA) and therefore operate in keeping with these standards. The portfolio includes:
1. Dunn’s River Beach ( part of the Dunn’s River Falls experience), St Ann
2. Ocho Rios Bay Beach, St. Ann
3. Fort Clarence Beach Park , St. Catherine
4. Bluefields Beach Park, Westmoreland
5. Long Bay Beach Park 1, Westmoreland

Beach Access and Management Policy
The UDC has been contributing over the last few years to the development of a Beach Access and Management Policy as part of a multi-agency Beaches and Coastal Resources Committee which includes agencies such as the Ministry of Tourism, TPDCo, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (Fisheries Division). This process is being spearheaded by NEPA which will also be responsible for the enforcement of the policy.

We highlight the fact that under section 12 of the Beach Control Act, , the Natural Resources Conservation Authority (NRCA) NEPA Authority has a duty to determine the needs and requirements of the public in relation to the use of the foreshore or any portion of land, whether or not such land adjoins the foreshore “for or in connection with bathing or any other form of lawful recreation or for the purpose of fishing as a trade or otherwise or for any other purpose in the interest of the economic development of the beaches of the Island”. The Authority also has the power to acquire land for this purpose.

We are also cognisant of the policies with respect to beach management outlined in the various Development Orders. For example, the St. Ann Development Order which was developed by the UDC in consultation with other stakeholders in 1998, and confirmed in 2004, states:
“It is imperative that parks and conservation areas be protected and retained as important natural resources.”
Policy C3 “The beaches listed will be preserved for the purpose indicated”
Policy C4 “No development will be permitted on lands adjacent to the lines of high water mark which would preclude public access to and along the foreshore”
Policy C5 “development along the seaward side of the coastal main road should be so arranged that there is no continuous wall of buildings screening the view of the sea.”

We welcome the public discussion on the matter and are of the view that in leading the development conversation along with the relevant regulatory bodies all concerns will be included to inform the final position. The Corporation will continue to be stewards of the land assets as entrusted to us under the UDC Act on behalf of the people of Jamaica, as we strive for orderly and sustainable development.

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