Fifteen years on from the eruptions that devastated the livelihoods and economy of Montserrat, the Soufrière Hills volcano continues to give reason for caution. However, the current hazard rating gives hope that the reduced level of volcanic activity will permit and encourage Montserratians to undertake concerted efforts to redevelop the island. To guide these redevelopment efforts Government has produced a Sustainable Development Plan (SDP) aimed at achieving a viable, self-sufficient population by the year 2020.
An important feature of this updated Physical Development Plan (PDP) is its alignment with the SDP. As such, this PDP provides a framework for land planning decisions that complement key economic drivers, and makes suitable provision for residential and recreational space, and for essential infrastructure. The plan also provides for the protection of Montserrat’s natural environment and its cultural heritage, both of which are central themes in the SDP.
Many consultation meetings took place during the compilation of this PDP to identify the needs and priorities of local communities, business sectors, tourism and the diaspora, while not forgetting the core functions and responsibilities of Government. The PDP team wish to extend their gratitude to all parties within and outside Government who have contributed to the successful completion of this PDP.
The overall approach to updating the PDP is guided by the statutory requirements of the Physical Planning Act (2002).
Considerable development has taken place during the last ten years, some of which was not fully predicted in the 2000-2009 PDP. But there are also some developments that were anticipated that have not been accomplished. Updating the PDP therefore commenced with an assessment of existing conditions with regard to land use and tenure, demographic and social conditions, public and social infrastructure, the island’s environment and cultural heritage, and cumulative social impacts up to 2010. This provided a basis from which development plans could be produced and against which the cumulative socio-environmental impacts of development may be assessed.
The SDP was studied to identify social and economic development targets and discussions were held with the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade to agree primary economic drivers, and possible businesses and job opportunities that would initiate population growth. These considerations informed likely infrastructure requirements and land use. These were cross-checked for consistency and an evaluation was made of developable land area to ensure that the vision for Montserrat at 2020 could be reasonably accommodated within the non-exclusion part of the island.
A set of principles for regulating and promoting land use and development was developed and agreed with the Planning and Development Authority (PDA). These were supplemented by principles for management of Montserrat’s environmental and cultural heritage, for considering disaster risk reduction and the anticipated effects of climate change, and to ensure social inclusion. These are described in Section 3 of the PDP.
Using the projections of economic activity and population growth, supplemented by extensive stakeholder consultations, an assessment was made of future land use requirements. The most significant land use requirements are tabulated in Section 4. An evaluation of development potential was then undertaken by considering committed and proposed projects, the SDP’s commitment to protecting Montserrat’s environment and cultural heritage, measures to reduce the risks associated with natural disasters and climate change, and aviation regulations. The result of this evaluation is tabulated at the end of Section 5 in terms of available land for development in each area of north Montserrat.
Section 6 provides details of the agreed physical development strategy. Local area plans for each community and primary development area are provided in Section 7.
The current composition and future expansion of local communities were considered in order to update the previous local area plans, along with the anticipated type and size of businesses, to ascertain possible land use patterns that accord with good land planning practices. This involved extensive interaction with local communities, business leaders, non-governmental organisations, society groups and the respective government departments.
As Montserratians strive to rebuild their economy and livelihoods care must be taken not to irreparably damage areas that define the island’s history and culture, and which will form the backbone of future tourism. A strategic assessment was also made of the environment and cultural heritage in order to identify potential areas of conflict and sensitive areas that should be protected from development.
Consultations were held with a wide range of stakeholders to explore the possible social impacts of current and longer-term policies that will shape the future of Montserrat. This resulted in the production of development scenarios, which were reviewed by the Planning and Development Authority (PDA) and all ministers and ministries, before inviting representations from the public, the diaspora, and interested parties during the statutory sixty-day consultation period. The period of public consultations closed in December 2011, following which the Planning and Development Authority (PDA) considered all representations and the PDP was finalised and submitted to the Governor in Council for approval.
Key Features of the PDP
The PDP aims to integrate a wide range of issues into a physical development strategy that supports the SDP development objectives. The plan aims to facilitate social development and economic growth activities, identified via public consultations across Montserrat, while ensuring that people have access to a wide range of services locally, have access to appropriate housing and community facilities, and are able to maintain or attain a high quality of life. The strategy must also support the valuable environmental and built heritage assets that underpin socio-economic development of the island through tourism, and quality of life, and water provision.
The key elements of this updated PDP are:
A new capital town at Little Bay
Since 1999 Little Bay has been considered as the new capital town and economic centre for Montserrat. Government is now a advancing plans to develop Little Bay, Rendezvous Bay and Carr’s Bay as an integrated 3-Bay concept aimed at providing modern, efficient and attractive residential, commercial and tourism-related facilities that will spearhead the island’s economic recovery.
It is proposed to develop a port at Carr’s Bay that will accommodate small cruise-ships, cargo vessels, the ferry and some large yachts. The new quayside along Carr’s Bay would be developed as the new town’s waterfront, providing local business opportunities by way of shops, cafés and so on. This waterfront would extend through to the seaward end of Piper’s Pond where the “Evergreen Roundabout” (from old Plymouth) would be recreated. The new town would then extend from the roundabout eastwards to the new market and business court area within Little Bay. Within Little Bay itself, a high-end resort and government buildings would be constructed, along with a new recording studio to revive Montserrat’s music industry. At Rendezvous it is possible that permission may be given for the development of a suitable high-end eco-style hotel to further boost the tourism industry and overall economy of the island.
The existing jetty at Little Bay could be developed into a yacht marina, with a boatyard and boat repair facility in the Little Bay Ghaut area, creating a potentially significant new business opportunity.
A resilient network of decentralised village centres
While Little Bay and Brades will provide many of the islands services, retail and commercial facilities, the island’s other village centres will continue to meet the retail and commercial needs of local communities. This will ensure local access to services and, following lessons learnt from the loss of Plymouth, will avoid the risk of locating all services in one location.
Adequate and appropriate housing
Infilling and consolidation of existing settlement areas will meet most of the projected residential development needs during the plan period. As identified in Section 5.7, several significant new sites can be developed if there is demand for larger housing projects. The maximum densities of housing plots will be such that residents are able to own an area of garden. As development increases in the future and during the next PDP plan period it is anticipated that residents in Montserrat will need to accept higher density housing in some areas.
Social housing will occur in areas of high and medium density housing and will be mixed with private properties to ensure that areas of low income households are avoided.
The PDP includes local area plans for each community that take account of the need for community services and social infrastructure such as health centres, schools, recreational areas, and local shops. Care will be taken to avoid segregation of communities. The intention is to create desirable communities with a mixture of age groups and backgrounds and to provide the facilities that a vibrant community requires. Consideration has been given to public transport and traffic flows and, where appropriate, self-contained communities will be encouraged. Public spaces and recreational areas for local sports and cultural events will enhance the sense of community.
Island-wide Recreational Facilities
Beach areas, a public park, and a golf course will encourage people from all communities to socialise together, enhancing an island-wide “Montserratian” spirit. It is recognised that until volcanic activity can be considered consistently low, it will be difficult to encourage investment in areas south of Nantes River. But to avoid imbalances in social and economic development opportunities, regular national events will be promoted in areas such as Salem to bring investment to the area.
The new hotel at Little Bay will be the island’s flagship tourism facility, supplemented by existing and new villa and guesthouse facilities across the island. Sports tourism will be promoted, expanding on the existing FIFA-standard football stadium. New facilities are likely to include a golf course with high-end villas and an international standard tennis centre.
While the new Parliament building will be located at Little Bay, government offices will be mostly at Brades. Care will be taken not to impede access and egress for emergency police and fire vehicles at the Brades compound and an additional access is to be considered.
Commercial and Industrial Developments
In addition to community-based businesses in each area, land will be made available for commercial and industrial businesses. As far as possible, based on volcanic activity and an environmental management plan, the Belham Valley will be used for sand-mining and aggregate production, and spin-off businesses.
Further industrial and commercial developments will be encouraged in the vicinity of the power station.
Global food security issues and high import costs currently leave Montserrat in a vulnerable position. Sufficient land is allocated on the northern and south-western fringes of the protected Centre Hills forest to meet and exceed the national food production targets. It is envisaged that agricultural production will benefit from new techniques and the use of greenhouses and net-houses, reducing the amount of land required and the incidence of insect pest damage to vulnerable crops. The MAHLE will encourage backyard gardening by ensuring appropriate housing densities.
For the foreseeable future, sand-mining activities will be based in the Belham Valley area. This will be managed in such a way as to minimise the impact on the surrounding residential areas and on the environment. All sand-mining activities will, therefore, be subject to the findings and provision of an Environmental Impact Assessment and an associated Environmental Management Plan, to be enforced through appropriate legislation.
A breakwater and port will be built at Carr’s Bay to enable Montserrat to take advantage of the bespoke cruise-ship industry targeting ships of up to 1,000 passengers. The new facilities will also accommodate the ferry and cargo vessels. An appropriate layout for the port area will be adopted that provides for the safe and efficient movement of passengers separate from freight and materials. Suitable provision will be made for a safe haven for fishing boats, in a manner that integrates with the overall styling of the 3-bay concept, adjacent developments and the local environment. The runway at Gerald’s airport can accommodate air movements associated with the target resident population, tourism and business activities, but suitable measures will be taken to enhance safety, including relocation of the control tower and administrative buildings, and possible realignment and/or extension of the runway. Modifications will be made to the terminal building to improve the processing of passengers through immigration and security and facilities commensurate with high-end tourism, such as upgraded departure lounge with duty-free shopping and restaurant, and a CIP lounge.
Geothermal energy explorations are planned to be completed by early 2012, which it is hoped will prove a substantial resource, sufficient for domestic use throughout the period of this PDP and sufficient to permit economically viable exports of electricity to Antigua.
Water demand up to 2020 is expected to be about double the current figure. The golf course, water-bottling and agro-processing, and an increasing population and tourism sector will all place demand on the system, especially during the drier season. But supply rates from the current springs and wells would suffice, especially with the introduction of demand management measures.
The installation of high-speed fibre-optic links with Guadeloupe and St Kitts is a high priority. It is hoped that both geothermal energy and the fibre-optic links will quickly lead to spin-off industries, including agro-processing, high-end IT businesses, etc.
Steep hilly terrain is a common feature of small volcanic islands, which makes road building and maintenance expensive, and limits the opportunities for upgrading, widening or new routes. This PDP has considered possible future traffic levels and has made provision for a selected number of new routes, some of which will improve normal traffic circulation, while others are aimed at addressing the possible consequences of climate change or easing post-disaster recovery operations.
Sewage treatment of small isolated houses will continue to be on individual (septic tank) systems but, where appropriate, communal systems will be introduced.
The overall size of the solid waste landfill site is deemed to be adequate for the period up to 2022, but measures will be taken to reduce waste going to landfill via the principles of “reduce, reuse, recycle”.
Minimising vulnerability to disaster
Land development is proposed in a manner that vulnerability is reduced to the range of disasters that Montserrat is likely to experience, including the anticipated effects of climate change. This is reflected, for example, in the location of critical infrastructure. Where land use planning is unable to minimise the risk to residential areas to phenomena such as hurricane wind speeds, it is crucial to address these risks through enforcing appropriate Development Standards, as shown in Appendix A.
Where areas are perceived to be at a slightly higher risk from volcanic activity, such as Salem and its immediate vicinity, it is important to support social and economic development, making these areas vibrant and attractive places to live and to do business.
Environmental and Cultural Heritage Resources
Montserrat’s environmental and cultural heritage resources are a cornerstone of the island’s future. Its environmental assets are of national, regional and global conservation significance; as a system, it protects local livelihoods and will play an increasingly important role in an ecosystems-based approach to managing the future effects of climate change. .
All new developments are expected to conform to enhanced environmental standards in order to redevelop Montserrat as a “green” island. Public awareness will be raised with regard to the benefits – environmentally and economically – of improved building construction methods and a new Montserrat building code will be issued to enforce these measures.
A suite of policy measures are designed to maintain the integrity of the protected forest areas of the Centre Hills and to manage its resources for the benefit of all; its springs provide all of Montserrat’s potable water; it’s contiguous forest acts as a buffer against the impacts of natural disasters and within its leafy canopy are plant and animal species found nowhere else on earth including the iconic and critically endangered Montserrat Oriole and Montserrat Galliwasp.
In other areas, sensitive development that enables the people of Montserrat to enjoy the hidden corners and beautiful places of the north may be permitted. The 75 acres of protected forest at the Silver Hills are surrounded by approximately 1,600 acres of scenic landscape of archaeological importance. Geologically the oldest part of Montserrat, the coastal cliffs also support breeding populations of internationally important sea birds. Proposals for this area seek a balance between conservation and non-invasive ecotourism development, recognising the cultural significance of the land for North Montserratians. Further south and strategically located between proposed developments at Little Bay and Carrs Bay, the rehabilitation of Pipers Pond mangrove and its surrounds provides another important opportunity to balance conservation with development.
Strict controls on development in other parts of the island will be required not just for the conservation of Montserrat’s rich natural environment and biota, but in order to protect agriculture and fisheries based livelihoods and beach, dive and eco‐tourism. This includes restricting development in and around ghauts and adopting a risk reduction approach to the location of infrastructure in high-risk areas.
This risk reduction approach is intrinsically linked to the recognition that as an island nation located in close proximity to the subduction zone of the Caribbean plate boundary and that Montserrat is extremely vulnerable to the effects of extreme natural events and to the impacts of anticipated climatic changes. Climate change and disaster risk management measures are, therefore, mainstreamed through every aspect of the PDP.
As an integral part of the environment, the PDP has identified the island’s unique sites of built and cultural heritage as important reference points for future development and has recognised the role they play in fostering a sense of national identity and pride, particularly as the nation enters a period of significant potential demographic transformation.
Government’s Land Policies
The PDP contains detailed policies and guidelines for promoting and controlling development for north Montserrat. This PDP contains an overall development strategy for land use planning for north Monsterrat and further, more detailed land use zoning and policies for the main settlements areas. These are addressed in Local Area Plans, prepared for the following areas: Barzey’s Brades, Davy Hill – Little Bay – Carr’s Bay, Gerald’s – Drummonds, Lookout, Salem, St John’s, and St Peter’s. Policies are enforced through the planning process where planning permission for all proposed developments is granted by the PDA subject to relevant compliance.
It is recognised that some economic development initiatives may arise after completion of this PDP that require some changes to land use patterns envisaged by the PDP team in 2011. The principles used in developing the plan (outlined in Section 3 – Planning Parameters and Section 5 – Land Available for Development) should provide sufficient guidance for accommodating such initiatives.
Guidelines for Implementation of the PDP
The successful implementation of this PDP is contingent on a number of factors, including:
- Government securing the requisite funding to finance its part of the development proposals
- The private sector actively playing its role in terms of investing proactively and making land available (even though it might retain ownership) for housing, and commercial and industrial developments as outlined in the plan
- The swift and satisfactory completion of improved air and sea access, geothermal energy production, and ICT links
- Gaining wide support to the plan’s objectives and provisions among members of the public, the business community, and development partners
- Successful conclusion of contracts with cruise ship liners and tourism companies to actively develop a vibrant commercial tourism industry
- Encouraging the development of a golf course and high value resident tourism
- Creating and sustaining the conditions that continue to make Montserrat a highly desirable place to work and to live
Status of the Plan
This document constitutes the Physical Development Plan for the north of Montserrat for the period up to 2022. The current physical planning context for the island is provided by the Physical Planning Act, 2002 and the previous PDP (2000-2009) which was valid until superseded by this document. While this updated plan contains many of the key features of the previous PDP (2000-2009), thereby providing for development planning consistency, this document contains some important new land use zonation, planning guidelines and development standards.