Land Available for Development

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5.1     Introduction

Section 3 explained that if Montserrat’s primary economic drivers are implemented and the resulting economic development opportunities are realised, there will be corresponding population growth. Estimates based on economic growth forecasts suggest that Montserrat’s population will almost double from 4,800 today to approximately 10,000 by 2022. Appendix D sets out forecast population growth for Montserrat with a breakdown by communities. This is based on economic growth projections, existing and likely housing density, land available for development and the type of land use zoning proposed for each area.

As shown in the previous section, the resulting need for housing, community facilities, commercial space and retail, industrial activities and so on come to an total range of between approximately 600 and 900 acres. North Montserrat’s total land area (including Zones A, B and F) is approximately 9,980 acres, of which approximately 2,500 are protected forest.

This section will evaluate which remaining areas in north Montserrat are suitable for development. The aim is to understand what quantity of land is available for development, where it is and what it can and can’t be used for. Proposed and committed developments are first taken into account. The analysis then takes into account topography, environmental aspects, disaster risk, and man-made constraints such as the airport. It also takes into account the proximity to existing infrastructure as a realistic constraint to future development.

The analysis shows that there is considerable potential for consolidating existing settlements and also that several significant development areas exist.

5.2     Committed and Proposed Developments

A number of developments are currently proposed or underway in north Montserrat. The most significant proposed development is the creation of a new settlement at Little Bay. This would form the economic, commercial, cultural and residential centre of north Montserrat as well as being a seat of Government and a focal point for society. The development would include a breakwater and upgraded port facilities which are considered a primary economic driver for the island. A number of additional developments are summarised below:


There are currently two government organised housing projects in north Montserrat

  • A 2.5 acre development at Davy Hill comprising approximately 20 lots for affordable housing.
  • A 4 acre development in eastern Lookout for approximately 10 high-end housing lots.

Nine privately built medium density housing units are committed on the south eastern fringe of Lookout. Several areas of land have been subdivided for residential development, particularly in Barzey’s. A small number of individual residential plots are also being developed across the island, particularly in the areas of Woodlands and Olveston, through the infilling of existing residential areas.

Government, Society and Community

There is a general intention that over the next decade the government offices will be divided between Brades and Little Bay. Some government departments are already planning to move. Other notable committed (C) and proposed (P) projects include:

  • The Office of the Chief Minister, Brades (C)
  • Building Two of the Government Headquarters, Brades (C)
  • The Social Security Building, Little Bay (C)
  • The Ministry of Communications and Works (MCW) new Headquarters at Brades (C)
  • The Ministry of Agriculture, Housing, Land and the Environment (MAHLE) new Headquarters on existing site at Brades (C)
  • Montserrat Media Corporation (MMC) building at Little Bay / Davy Hill (C)
  • Redevelopment of Glendon Hospital at St Johns (C)
  • Davy Hill Community Centre and multipurpose hard court (C)
  • Lookout Primary School refurbishment including a hurricane proof multi-purpose hall (C)
  • Salem Park refurbishments (C)
  • Public cemetery at eastern end of Lookout (C)
  • Rehabilitation of Carr’s Bay Gun Battery (C)
  • Lookout landscaping plan (C)
  • St John’s Community Centre and multipurpose hard court (P)
  • The Financial Services Commission building at Little Bay is in the design stage (P)
  • Girl Guides centre and accommodation at Lookout (P)

It should be noted that the completion of many of the proposed developments is dependent on securing sufficient funding.


There are a number of sites close to Barzey’s and the Underwood Estate that have been discussed within the Department of Agriculture as potential areas for government owned agricultural land. However, these remain ideas only at this stage and no formal application for the purchase or lease of land has been made.


Tourism is seen as a primary economic driver for Montserrat’s development and the following projects are committed:

  • National Museum and Archives at Little Bay (completion date of 2012)
  • Montserrat Volcano Interpretation Centre at Little Bay (completion date of 2012)

There are Tourism Board plans, in partnership with the National Trust (NT), to restore several archaeological and cultural sites. The botanical garden at the NT office in Woodlands is also undergoing some improvement along with the development of a small scale Amerindian Garden at the same location.


Commercial activity is limited and at present there are very few developments underway. However, the following developments have been identified:

  • A proposed new retail outlet on the Little Bay site (RFP in late 2011)
  • A proposed office development on the Little Bay site (RFP in late 2011)
  • A committed new commercial office building on the main road in Brades


Sand mining is a major industrial concern. Several studies have been undertaken to provide recommendations on the future development of the industry. A jetty will be constructed at either Isles Bay or Foxes Bay for the export of materials.

GIS figure 5.1 – committed and proposed developments

5.3     Protecting Montserrat’s Environment and Cultural Heritage

Maintaining the integrity and effectively managing Montserrat’s existing protected areas is important for: livelihoods, disaster risk reduction, climate change adaptation and conservation.

The Centre Hills are protected by multiple pieces of legislation that recognise the importance of its water catchments, its bio-diversity value and its role as a buffer during hurricanes and extreme weather events.  The protected area is impacted by adjacent land-use, where feasible a discretionary buffer zone should be employed.

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. Development of this area could achieve a balance between conservation and non-invasive development, recognising the cultural significance of the land for North Montserratians. The Silver Hills also provide access to Montserrat’s only white sand beach at Rendezvous Bay.

Occupying a predominant location at the mouth of the Sweeney’s River, Pipers Pond and the adjacent bank of Potato Hill represent a combined protected area of 0.8 ha.  Strategically located between proposed developments at Little Bay and Carrs Bay, the rehabilitation of this mangrove swamp provides an exciting opportunity to balance conservation with development.

Development in and around ghauts must be restricted, both for their conservation value and to protect upstream and downstream lands, roads and properties from the effects of flash floods (such as happened during Hurricane Earl in 2010). These riparian strips are also a valuable and integral component of Montserrat’s unique landscape, supporting Montserrat’s image as the “Emerald Isle” of the Caribbean.

The management and protection of areas of environmental and cultural importance that lie outside protected areas will rely on the enforcement of planning guidelines and controls. At a minimum, the planning guidelines in the Development Standards, Appendix A of this strategy should be incorporated into all development contracts.

These guidelines include management measures for habitat areas of a range of range restricted species including the endemic and highly endangered plant species Rondeleetia Buxifolia (Montserrat Pribby) and Epidendrum Montserratense (Montserrat Orchid) and the illusive lizard the Montserrat Galliwasp.

The adverse impacts of increased beachfront development on the nesting turtle populations using Montserrat’s mainland beaches must be considered in addition to the potential adverse impacts of turtle harvest; this includes preservation of vegetation above the high water mark and restricting land uses that may attract vermin to beaches. Every effort will be made to protect the remaining turtle nesting habitat in Montserrat. Planning guidelines will minimise light pollution and noise during critical nesting seasons.

Montserrat has a unique cultural heritage stemming from the Saladoid-Barrancoid group in the 4th century, followed by the Arawaks in the 9th century, Caribs in the 13th century, and European settlers (particularly Irish) in the 17th century. Considerable unique remains have been discovered across north Montserrat. In addition the North of Montserrat contains many fine examples of vernacular architecture and buildings of historic note which provide important reference points for future development. Heritage structures and archaeological sites will be factored into land-use zoning.

5.4     Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change

Four key risk factors can be identified for Montserrat and these have been factored into spatial planning considerations and the evaluation of developable land:

  • The on-going activity of the Soufrière Hills Volcano which has implications for the location of strategic infrastructure;
  • The susceptibility of low lying areas at Little Bay and Carr’s Bay to the twin threats of inland and coastal flooding and storm surge;
  • The susceptibility of infrastructure adjacent to, or traversing ghauts that radiate from the Centre and Silver Hills; and
  • The proximity of potentially polluting land-uses to population.

Other disaster risk management considerations will be managed through the enforcement of planning regulations and the effective maintenance of infrastructure.

 5.5     Additional Constraints to Development

As well as the parameters set by Montserrat’s biophysical environment and through reducing vulnerability to disaster, there are several additional development constraints.

The Existing John A. Osborne Airport

The John A. Osborne airport has some strict obstacle controls which restrict the height of any type of structure around the site. Constraints to development around the airport are set out in several standards:

  1. 1.    Overseas Territories Aviation Requirements (OTARs): Part 139 – Certification of Aerodromes

This is the main document to which the John A. Osborne Airport staff refer.

  1. 2.    Civil Aviation Publication (CAP) 168, published by the UK CAA, for licensed aerodromes

Physical obstacles to aviation are addressed and the publication details a series of progressive three dimensional surfaces emanating from aerodromes, above which any penetrating objects are considered as obstacles. Figure 5.2 sets out the 2 dimensional constraints and these standards must be referred to in order to understand what development is permitted in certain places under the designated ‘clear zones’ and ‘transition zones’.

  1. 3.    International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Annex 14 to the convention on Civil Aviation: Volume 1 – Aerodrome Design and Operations

Design guidelines which set out restrictions for obstacles around aerodromes.

Safeguarding land for a new airport

Land is to be safeguarded for the only potential future airport site north of the exclusion zone capable of accommodating the required runway length and associated infrastructure to allow regional aircraft to operate from Montserrat. This is the Thatch Valley and Old Quaw area which covers approximately 200 acres. Although development of an airport at this site is unlikely within the plan period, this area is to be safeguarded as pastureland with a presumption against development.

GIS Figure 5.2 – John A Osborne Airport constraints

5.6     Land Available for Development

Taking into account all of the above factors and considerations, an analysis has been carried out to understand which land areas are suitable for development. The results are illustrated in Figure 5.3.

The analysis of existing land use shows that there is high potential for infilling and consolidation of the existing settlement areas. Estimates have been made for the likely developable land in each area and these are shown in Table 5.1

Table 5.1      Potential developable land by area

Area Name Generally Infilling / greenfield Area size  (acres) Percentage available Land available (acres)
Barzey’s greenfield 94 70 65
Brades Infilling 142 30 43
Brades Coast greenfield 18 80 14
Manjack Infilling 58 50 29
Baker Hill Infilling 73 30 22
Cudjoe Head Infilling 26 30 7.8
Drummonds and Geralds
Drummonds Infilling / greenfield 77 50 35
Geralds Infilling / greenfield 92 70 64
Davy Hill / Little Bay / Carr’s Bay
Little Bay greenfield 150 90 135
Davy Hill Infilling 78 40 31
Carr’s Bay greenfield 40 90 36
Lookout greenfield 118 20 23
St John’s
St John’s Infilling 98 20 20
Dick Hill Infilling 44 50 22
Mongo Hill Infilling 33 60 20
Judy Piece Infilling 30 30 9
St Peter’s
St Peters Infilling 135 40 54
Providence Infilling 66 70 46
Virgin Islands Infilling 88 60 53
Salem Infilling 140 60 84
Hope Infilling / greenfield 31 60 19
Frith and Fleming Infilling / greenfield 85 50 43
Happy Hill Infilling / greenfield 30 50 15
Beachettes sub division areas
Woodlands Infilling 62 40 25
Olveston Infilling 213 50 107
Old Towne Infilling 103 40 41
Isles Bay Infilling 89 50 45
 Other areas
Blakes Yard greenfield 26 100 26
Bentley Estate greenfield 61 100 61
Blakes Estate greenfield 192 100 192
Old Quaw and Thatch Valley greenfield 200 100 200
TOTAL 1,607 acres

The areas defined provide a total of approximately 1,607 acres of developable land. The figure can be compared to the estimated 600 to 900 acres required for future development to 2022, as set out in Section 4. As such it can be concluded that Montserrat does not lack land space to accommodate a population of 10,000 at the densities set out in Section 6.3.1. Through developing additional land not included in the evaluation due to distance from existing infrastructure, as well as from developing higher density settlements, Montserrat’s population could continue to increase beyond this figure.

Based on existing dwelling densities in each community, projections have been made of the area required to provide sufficient additional residences up to a population of 10,000. This indicates that between 280 and 350 acres will be required, leaving between roughly 330 and 550 acres available for development of non-residential facilities including community and recreation facilities, educational and health establishments, business premises, tourism-related items, and public infrastructure.

GIS figure 5.3 – analysis of potential development land (combine with specific development areas)


It is not anticipated that all of this area must be utilised. Provided that land planning decisions are made in cognisance of the guidance provided by this PDP, there is plenty of space to provide fully for the intended resident and tourist numbers, and all associated businesses, located in such a way that Montserrat becomes a highly desirable place to live, to visit and to do business.

As discussed in Section 2.5, a significant constraint to development is the land market, the unwillingness to sell land to those who are not family or friends and as such, the limited availability of affordable property for sale or lease.

It should be noted that Local Area Plan (LAP) boundaries have been adjusted from the previous PDP (2000-2009) to take into account the potential developable land around the periphery of each settlement area. This ensures that the physical development strategy is based on a straight forward definition of the main settlement areas.

5.7     Significant Development Areas

As well as infilling in existing residential areas there are several significant areas of development opportunity. These are included in Table 5.1 but comprise larger non-fragmented areas. These are listed below along with a short description of the site opportunities and constraints. The location and situations of these areas are shown in Figure 5.3.

  1. 1.    Little Bay (150 acres)
  • A key development site for the new economic and tourism centre of Montserrat.
  • Environmentally sensitive site including visual impact and Pipers Pond
  • Government owned land.
  • Access roads in place and utilities in place at the rear of the site. Drainage channels in place.
  1. 2.    Carr’s Bay (40 acres)
  • Sheltered low lying land adjacent to Little Bay.
  • Currently vulnerable to flooding and storm surge.
  • Suitable for water based tourism use, port or industrial use.
  • Fragmented private and government owned land.
  • Poor road access and little existing service infrastructure.
  1. 3.    Manjack (8 acres)
  • Several large open areas in close proximity to Brades and over-looking Carr’s Bay.
  • Suitable for residential development or light industrial activity (such as agro-processing).
  • Fragmented, privately owned land.
  • Services infrastructure available nearby. Roads in poor condition and would require widening.
  1. 4.    Brades: coastal areas (10 acres)
  • Two large tracts of land between Government Headquarters and the sea and to the south of the power station.
  • Suitable for commercial use.
  • Constrained by the noise of the diesel generators of the power station.
  • Environmentally sensitive site.
  • Fragmented private and government owned land.
  • Services infrastructure available nearby.
  1. 5.    Providence (20 acres)
  • Sheltered site on the west coast in close proximity to St Peter’s.
  • Suitable for residential and small scale industrial development.
  • Environmentally sensitive site.
  • Fragmented privately owned land.
  • Services infrastructure available nearby.
  1. 6.    Virgin Islands (34 acres)
  • Sheltered site on the west coast in close proximity to St Peter’s.
  • Suitable for residential and small scale industrial development.
  • Environmentally sensitive site.
  • Fragmented privately owned land.
  • Services infrastructure available nearby.
  1. 7.    Geralds: land north of airport (6 acres)
  • Flat land with attractive views to the east, adjacent to the John A Osborne airport.
  • Suitable for a range of activities including commercial office units, retail, residential, recreational and community use.
  • Privately owned by one land owner.
  • Services infrastructure available nearby.
  1. 8.    Geralds: land in Pasture Piece (10 acres)
  • Flat land with attractive views to the south and the east, close to the John A Osborne airport.
  • Development should not extend above the ridge line between Geralds and Little Bay to preserve the Little Bay landscape integrity.
  • Suitable for a range of activities including residential, educational, recreational and community use.
  • Privately owned by one land owner.
  • Services infrastructure available nearby.
  1. 9.    Salem: land adjacent to MSS (7 acres)
  • Area of gently sloping land adjacent to the MSS.
  • Suitable for small scale industrial activity (such as agro-processing).
  • Privately owned with on-going planning permission for a water bottling plant.
  • Services infrastructure available nearby but no access roads or infrastructure on site.
  1. 10.  Blakes Estate (190 acres)
  • Huge area of east facing gently sloping land.
  • Environmentally sensitive, predominantly dry forest vegetation.
  • Suitable for golf course, low density residential development, sports facilities.
  • Privately owned by one land owner.
  • No existing road access or service infrastructure.
  1. 11.  Old Quaw and Thatch Valley (200 acres)
  • Large area of north and east facing, gently sloping land.
  • Environmentally sensitive, predominantly pasture land.
  • Remains the only land option for development of a further airport suitable for regional aircraft.
  • Suitable for agriculture, low density residential development, tourism accommodation.
  • Fragmented, privately owned land.
  • Existing road access in extremely bad condition and currently impassable. No existing service infrastructure.

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