“Jamaica, Jamaica, Jamaica land we love” Excerpt from National Anthem.
Land is one of our most important resources; it affects everyone’s lives. The idea of Sustainable Development is so important as it allows us to arrange our land in an orderly and complementary way. This ensure that the best interests of the community are served.
Good land use practices or physical planning answers questions of where to locate residences, shopping malls, gas stations and parks or how utilities should be distributed.
Physical Planning guides the development process so that land use needs are met. This is general information and not a complete breakdown of the Local Improvements Act, 1914. It is a valuable tool to answer questions of Jamaican citizens as far as the subdivision processes are concerned.
What Does A Subdivision Mean?
Whenever someone splits land into two or more pieces or parcels for sale, gift or lease, they have subdivided it. The regulations of Local Improvements Act govern this process so that:
- The proposed use is suitable for the land.
- The plan fits in with the local legislation and policies.
- The people in the area are protected from developments that are unsuitable or cause distress on the services in the area.
If a subdivision plan does not go through the correct process, problems may arise such as residential area being located in a hazard/flood zone or a customer buys land from someone who is not the owner and thus will not be able to obtain their title.
Who Approves Subdivisions?
The Municipal Corporation known as the Local Planning Authority (LPA) approves subdivision plans for the public, government agencies and private sector in the parish. Recommendations are received from the National Environment & Planning Agency, along with other commenting agencies, but final approval or refusal rests with the Municipal Corporation.
What Is A Subdivision Plan?
A subdivision plan is a large scale map showing the surveyed land space as well as other information required by the Municipal Corporation including but not limited to:
- The number of lots you plan to divide the land into.
- The proposed use of the lots
- Name and widths of the existing and proposed roads.
- The existing and proposed heights, sizes and use of buildings so that very heavy buildings are not built on weak soils.
How Do You Go About Subdividing Land?
- The best and first thing to do is to CONSULT YOUR PARISH COUNCIL BEFORE YOU START THE PROCESS OR BUY LAND.
- They will take you through the entire process.
- You need to employ a Commissioned Land Surveyor to compile the documents required.
HOW ARE APPLICATIONS ASSESSED?
When a subdivision application is received, it is assessed based on several different criteria. These include, but not limited to:
- How the plans match the zoning regulations (in the Development Order).
- How suitable is the proposed use, considering the adjoining uses.
- Whether the area falls in a hazard/disaster zone.
- Size and number of lots
- Availability of utilities
- Existing use of land
WHAT DO I NEED TO CARRY WHEN SUBMITTING?
When submitting you will need the following (some applications will require additional documentation):
- Ten (10) application Forms
- Twenty (20) Subdivision Plans
- Proof of ownership
- Up-to-date Property Tax Receipt
- Certificate of complete tax payment
- Valuation Report
- Fees (for both the St. Ann Municipal Corporation & NWA)
If the subdivision is over 10 lots, a Project Information Form under the Natural Resources Conservation (NRCA) Act needs to be filled out & submitted to National Environment & Planning Authority (NEPA).
ARE YOU A PART OF THE PROCESS?
YES YOU ARE!!! After all the assessments are made, a fee is paid to submit the application. Also, a fee has to be paid to the National Works Agency for their review. The applicant is given the conditions of approval to accept. You can halt the process at any point by writing requesting closure, by refusing to accept the recommendations or you may agree by signing and return the documents to the LPA.
CAN YOU APPEAL THE DECISION OF THE LOCAL AUTHORITY?
It is within your legal rights to appeal the decision of the Municipal Corporation - whether refusal or approval. You have twenty - eight (28) days after written notification to appeal. Your “Notice of Appeal” letter should be addressed to the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry with responsibility for the Environment and copied to the Local Planning Authority.
WHEN CAN YOU BEGIN TO CARRY OUT INFRASTRUCTURE WORKS?
If your plan is approved, the Local Planning Authority will contact you within fourteen (14) days after the final decision has been made. The plans need to be registered at the Land Titles Division, National Land Agency and the Real Estate Board (for subdivisions over 6 lots). With your subdivision formally registered, you may now proceed with the development. Your development is legal as long as all approved conditions that had been accepted are adhered to.
SHOULD INFRASTRUCTURE BE PUT IN PLACE IN MY PLAN?
There are essential services that must be put in place when subdividing; the main one is access to the lots. The others are potable water and electricity. These regulations help to maintain standards and protect buyers.
The need for infrastructure is dependent on the layout of the proposal & number of lots.
IS AN APARTMENT BUILDING OR SHOPPING PLAZA A SUBDIVISION?
An apartment building, condominiums, plaza, townhouse complex, or mall, whether for residential or commercial use, may be sold or rented separately.
Each unit will have a different title that shows the properties of the apartment as well as the shared land space on the lot, for example the parking spaces. This is called a Strata Title Application.
As apartments/units in a building can have separate titles and may be sold separately, they will come under the umbrella of a subdivision.