Planning Parameters

Download the Planning Parameters here.

3.1     Government’s Sustainable Development Plan and Vision 2020

Government’s Sustainable Development Plan (SDP) for the period 2008-2020 is the overarching document that outlines activities and priorities in the public and private sectors for redevelopment of Montserrat. It provides a coherent policy framework – developed and agreed by Government, the private sector, individuals and organisations – for achieving a vision by 2020 of “a healthy and wholesome Montserrat, founded upon a thriving modern economy with a friendly, vibrant community, in which all our people through enterprise and initiative, can fulfil their hopes in a truly democratic and God-fearing society”.

The SDP describes five strategic goals for achieving Vision 2020:

1.     a stable and diversified economy with sustained growth

2.     enhanced human development and improved quality of life

3.     environmental sustainability and strategies for mitigation of disasters

4.     efficient, responsive and accountable system of governance

5.     a sustainable population

More specifically, the SDP provides specific social and economic development targets, including:

  • 6% annual GDP growth from 2012 onwards
  • 60% of national electricity needs produced from renewable resources
  • local production of 50% of annual agricultural needs
  • residential population of 9,000
  • tourist arrivals of 15,000 annually
  • more reliable and affordable access to the island

In one way or another, land use planning impacts on each of the strategic goals and development targets. The allocation and sustainable use of land is essential for a stable and diversified economy and for improved quality of life; there is a close interrelationship between land use, the environment and the mitigation of disasters; equitable land allocation and management relies on good governance; and a sustainable population requires spaces for living, working, and recreational purposes.

The SDP has been studied to identify the primary economic drivers that will be central to Montserrat’s economic growth and social development in the coming years. These are:

  • geothermal energy
  • fibre-optic links to Guadeloupe and St Kitts
  • improved sea and air access

In short, convenient and affordable access will facilitate the movement of people and goods, tourism, and reliable and competitively priced Internet links and energy will make Montserrat regionally competitive.

3.2     Inter-relationship between Economic Drivers and Land Use

The provision of geothermal energy, new fibre-optic cables (to link Montserrat to the regional Internet network), and improved air and sea access are considered to be of primary importance to virtually all upcoming social and economic development activities in Montserrat. Achievement of Government’s Vision 2020 will also rely on the provision of suitable public and social infrastructure, and the construction of businesses, homes and tourism facilities. All of these economic activities will require land (see Figure 3.1).

Prudent allocation and use of developable land will enable Montserrat to redevelop its economy and recreate standards of living at least as high as those seen prior to 1995. While geothermal energy operations must be located in the Exclusion Zone (where suitable fault lines are located) and sand-mining at its periphery, all other social development and economic growth activities will compete for land space within the northern part of the island. This includes commercial, industrial and tourism facilities, government buildings, social and public infrastructure, residential and recreational spaces, areas of ecological, landscape and cultural heritage significance and protected environmental areas.

3.3        Approach to developing the PDP

Government’s SDP has been taken as the starting point for considering what Montserrat might look like by 2020 and the demands that will be placed upon its land areas. In particular, the SDP targets for residential population and annual tourist numbers provide the basis from which demographic and economic projections can be made.

The current population is just under 5,000, so the SDP target implies a doubling of this figure. It has also been assumed that at least 3,000 new jobs will need to be created to sustain the target population of up to 10,000; see Figure 3.2.

Figure 3.2:  Job and Population projections up to 2022

The previous PDP (2000-2009) used Government’s resident population target of 10,000, but acknowledged that the pace of development could not be forecast. It considered the land requirements and development projects that would be required to support interim levels of population, in three phases:

          Phase I       –                6,000 resident population

          Phase II      –                8,000 resident population

          Phase III     –              10,000 resident population

Some developments anticipated when producing the previous PDP (2000-2009) have not taken place, but some developments have been undertaken that were completely unforeseen. This updated PDP uses the same approach of phased population targets and acknowledges that, while development initiatives are somewhat clearer than ten years ago, the pace of development still cannot be accurately predicted. Despite these unknowns, this updated PDP must consider the possibility that Phase 3 could be attained by 2022. It must consider the land uses associated with 10,000 residents, their places of work and recreation, and the additional demands on land space for a viable tourism industry.

Sustainability considerations dictate that current decisions and actions should not compromise the quality of life of future generations. This PDP is intended to facilitate implementation of the SDP up to 2020, but it must fully consider land use needs and infrastructure provision even if the SDP targets are attained after the plan period. It is not possible to define precisely the demographic profile or nature of businesses that will characterise a future Montserrat so the PDP must include a degree of flexibility that accommodates more than one development scenario, while still providing sufficient guidance to be an effective decision-making framework for future land use and development.

People will only come to Montserrat (diaspora and/or others) if there are good jobs and they will only stay if the standards of living are also good. While the Little Bay Estate (LBE) is expected to provide about 850 jobs post-construction, it is clear that many other economic initiatives will be required to provide the overall number of jobs to sustain the target population. Consideration has been given to possible spin-off industries that could arise from provision of geothermal energy, ICT, sand-mining, and improved access, the primary tourism and commercial opportunities of the 3-Bay Concept, and the additional opportunities associated with Montserrat’s fresh water supply and abundant fruit trees (e.g. water bottling and fruit-juice production), the volcano itself (as a tourist attraction), privately-owned lands (for eco- and sports-tourism, etc), and so on. There is expected to be some “lead-in” time while appropriate arrangements are made before these jobs will happen.

Land use requirements have been estimated for the plan period, based on the SDP and other relevant policy documents, as well as through the consultation process. Section 4 sets out this process in further detail.

An evaluation was then made of potential development land in northern Montserrat, based on several parameters. These were, firstly, the assumption that land can generally be developed on slopes up to 30 degrees, although all planning applications will be considered on a case by case basis, including cases where developers apply to build on steeper slopes. Secondly, the evaluation excluded all protected and conservation areas. Thirdly, areas vulnerable to flooding and other hazards were discounted and fourthly, areas within proximity to existing infrastructure were given priority for development. The evaluation of developable land is set out in Section 5.

Once the potential land available for development was identified, the process of planning and consultation was carried through to suggest a land use zoning pattern for the future development of Montserrat. Associated polices were developed in order to support sustainable land use planning and the objectives of the PDP.

3.4     Principles for Regulating and Promoting Land Use and Development

Land planning refers to decisions that relate to continuation or changes of land use. These decisions affect everyday life. These decisions might relate to the location of public infrastructure (roads, utilities, etc), or social infrastructure (schools, health centres, parks, etc), residential plots, protection of water courses and environmentally sensitive areas, or the preservation of heritage sites. They may influence where people work, where they go to shop, where they have to take their children to school, or where they can build their homes.

Land planning decisions might also be associated with the permissible use of adjacent lands; this is called “zoning”. The primary purpose of zoning is to ensure compatible use of adjacent land areas, avoiding conflicts between different land users, and between land users and the natural environment (both flora and fauna). Zoning also supports sustainable and equitable development of communities, and can ensure consistency of development purposes and styles within a defined area. Zoning is of particular importance for northern Montserrat because a whole nation’s future has to be accommodated within just 16 sq miles, of which at least 4 sq miles is already a protected area (the Centre Hills). Tourism is considered a key sector of the nation’s future economy, so zoning can also help preserve Montserrat’s unique environment, its splendid vistas, and cultural heritage; all of which are vital to Montserrat’s tourism product and the Montserratian way of life.

Local Area Plans (LAPs) have been produced for each of the eight main settlement areas, as defined in Section 7.1. Each LAP indicates appropriate zoning and supporting land use policy based on the anticipated mix of residential, business, and other uses in these areas. The zoning and policy also makes suitable provision for social and public infrastructure, while protecting water courses and environmentally sensitive areas. Consideration has been given to ensuring local access to services and maintaining the cohesion of the community within each LAP by allocating space for community buildings and outside events, local shopping, eateries, bars and other places of local entertainment. This is also important to ensure local access to services and facilities.

The zoning in this PDP aims to extend the local community structure to a national Montserratian level, essential for defining what is unique about Montserrat and identifying the island as a special place in the Caribbean. The zoning at national level therefore considers the branding of Montserrat and how this should be reflected in its tourism product including the ‘three-bay concept’ for Carr’s Bay, Little Bay and Rendezvous Bay and the standard of hotel and associated facilities in Little Bay. It also considers the type and location of sports tourism facilities, residential accommodation, businesses, and protection of everything that is unique to Montserrat’s environment and its people’s way of life.

The zoned designation of land for certain uses or purposes is regulated through the planning process. Each development, from the addition to an existing residential dwelling to the development of a hotel or retail outlet, is evaluated by the Planning and Development Authority (PDA) with committee members representing the public and private sectors. This committee grants permission or refuses it on the basis of how the plans conform to the land use zoning, planning policy and the Development Standards (Appendix A) of the Physical Development Plan. The proposed development is then assessed at the detailed design level. Plans are assessed by the relevant government departments to ensure that building codes, environmental impact, sanitation and fire safety have all been appropriately considered. Appendix B sets out the planning application process in flow chart form.

As such the PDP is a land use and infrastructure framework to guide the sustainable development of the island. Where possible it is encouraged that land owners lease or sell land to potential developers or the government to contribute to this process and to benefit financially.

Land acquisition is considered a last resort for the government to acquire land if the need is critical to the development of Montserrat. The land acquisition process is set out in Appendix B.

3.5     Allocating Land for Infrastructure

Sustainability considerations dictate that current decisions and actions should not compromise the quality of life of future generations. But uncertainties regarding the future size and locations of resident population, tourist facilities and businesses mean that future demand on land cannot be accurately predicted. Equally, the size and location of infrastructure cannot be fully determined at this time. However, critical infrastructure must be protected from the potential effects of natural disasters and climate change, and careful consideration must be given to the location of these items. This PDP aims to provide sufficient flexibility in land use planning to accommodate more than one development scenario, while still providing sufficient guidance to be an effective decision-making framework.

3.6     Principles for the Management of Environmental and Cultural Heritage

As signatories of the OECS St. George’s Declaration of Principles for Environmental Sustainability and the Montserrat UK Overseas Territories Environment Charter (UKOTEC) Montserrat is committed to effective and sustainable management of its natural environment and built and cultural heritage. A number of multilateral conventions have also been extended to Montserrat.  These commitments are enshrined in the goals and targets of the National Environmental Management Strategy (NEMS) and the SDP 2010-2020 and guide the Physical Development Plan. The land use strategy will, therefore:

  • Protect and conserve biodiversity and other natural resources
  • Protect and conserve historical sites, artefacts and cultural heritage and
  • Prevent and control pollution and manage waste

The strategy recognises that significant environmental resources lie outside existing protected areas; finding management solutions that do not veto new development and enforcing existing policy, law and regulations will be critical for Montserrat’s development. Environmental resources should also be enjoyed and the strategy will seek to provide opportunities for people to come into contact with and appreciate Montserrat’s wildlife and wild places.

A renewed focus on Montserrat’s history has led to a plethora of important finds. The Strategy recognises that it will not be possible to conserve all these areas, but priorities will have to be agreed and all areas recorded and appropriate artefacts taken to the museum.  In addition, modern social history will play an important part in retaining and enhancing Montserrat’s sense of self and national identity, the context often as important as the site itself.

Key risk factors require specific measures. The Strategy will also seek to:

  • Reduce the effects of invasive species, including feral and loose livestock
  • Minimise potential for contamination of protected water catchments and springs, and safeguard soil quality and quantity.

3.7     Disaster Risk Reduction

Figure 3.3 presents a hazard risk map for Montserrat. Aside from the risks associated with volcanic and seismic activity, inland flooding and storm surge arising from extreme weather events represent the greatest threat to developments on the island.

The land use strategy will therefore:

  • Adopt a precautionary and risk based approach to flood risk, taking into account the susceptibility of low lying areas with high water table; the effects of wave action (including storm surge and tsunami) and inland flooding;
  • Recognise the important role of ghauts in successful water and land management;
  • Minimise the potential for increases in surface water run-off and sediment deposition in ghauts and the marine environment;
  • Ensure emergency access and access to emergency medical support is factored into the location of critical infrastructure and
  • Minimise the effects of polluting land uses on people and other sensitive receptors.

3.8     Climate Change Adaptation

Montserrat’s vulnerability to risks from natural disasters is expected to be compounded by climate change impacts. Changes of the magnitude projected by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for the current century could have significant impacts on Montserrat. Land use planning decisions made now will have an impact on climatic events not forecast to happen for the next few decades. Although there is a degree of uncertainty over the magnitude of impact, Montserrat needs to plan for: potential increases in the frequency and intensity of hurricane and tropical storms; a warming trend which could see temperatures increase by between 2oC and 2.5oC above pre-industrial levels and sea-level rise of between 1 and 2 metres above present levels.

As an economically vulnerable small island state, many climate change adaptation strategies have already been mainstreamed in Montserrat’s national policy and plans and articulated in the objectives and land use strategy of the PDP. A national climate change policy is currently being developed.

GIS figure 3.3 – disaster risk

Specific issues which will inform the land use strategy include:

  • Protecting and Safeguarding Water Supply
  • Protecting and Safeguarding Agriculture Land
  • Protecting and Safeguarding Critical Infrastructure
  • Promoting Energy Efficiency and
  • Adopting an Ecosystems Based Approach to Climate Change Adaptation

Climate Change issues cross cut every aspect of planning. There are therefore, no specific climate change policies in the PDP, but instead, a set of principles that have been incorporated and main streamed throughout.



3.9     Social Inclusion

There have been profound and rapid changes in the socio economic and socio cultural make up of Montserrat since the first eruption of the Soufriere Hills Volcano in 1995. Necessarily urgent decisions taken in the immediate aftermath of the evacuation of the south have had far reaching and sometimes unintended consequences. In some cases and in certain population groups this has created a new vulnerability, while in others it has placed a greater onus on the protection of the most vulnerable members of society and highlighted the need now, more than ever, to plan carefully for a vibrant and inclusive Montserrat.

In post volcano Montserrat, small pockets of deprivation have emerged and there is a pressing need to support these communities and implement measures that ensure that future development is characterised by a balanced socio economic mix.  There are significant obstacles. The Government does not own land in the north and expensive lease arrangements for social housing are unsustainable. The Government is, however, committed to ensuring the permanent resettlement of Montserratians displaced by volcanic activity and facilitating the provision of adequate housing for all priority vulnerable groups. This includes recipients of welfare, those in Government housing or in need of housing assistance, jobless families, single-parent headed households, the mentally and physically disabled and the elderly.

Children and migrant residents represent two other vulnerable groups. The demographic composition of Montserrat is changing. Immigrants from the wider Caribbean region and beyond have contributed greatly to the economic recovery and are now an important part of the fabric of society, bringing with them a new cultural dynamic. In-migration is beginning to change the age profile of Montserrat, with more young people and children.

The PDP cannot guarantee housing for all, but it can ensure that spatial plans reflect current and future national policies for health, education, welfare and housing. It can allocate suitable space for clinics, outdoor space, a new secondary school and it can ensure that ambitious plans for development respect the rights and needs of all Montserratians, including maintaining the important link to the sea and ocean. Traditional livelihoods such as agriculture and fishing are important. Not just for employment, but for Montserrat’s sense of self and national identity.

The Strategy will, therefore:

  • Adopt an inclusive approach to spatial planning which integrates communities and ensures a balanced socio-economic mix within and between developments. Social housing will be more evenly distributed around the island.
  • Encourage proactive investment in communities, including those south of the Nantes River, to ensure vibrant and well maintained local areas with equal access for all to services;
  • Promote Healthy Living by encouraging physical exercise and supporting the development of domestic agriculture;
  • Reduces the Need to Travel and minimises the effects of non-car ownership and transport poverty;
  • Minimises Conflicting Land Uses and
  • Recognises the Changing Cultural Demographic of Montserrat.

Download the Planning Parameters here.


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