Senate Begins Debate on Building Bill
The Senate on Friday (December 1) began debate on the Building Bill, which seeks to establish a modern legislative framework that will serve to reduce the vulnerability of Jamaica’s built environment and ensure public safety.
The legislation was piloted by Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade and Leader of Government Business in the Senate, Hon. Kamina Johnson Smith.
Opening the debate, Senator Johnson Smith said it seeks to improve the overall efficiency of the building approval process while providing a framework for the effective management of the building industry.
“The Bill also serves to repeal the Kingston and St. Andrew and Parish Council Building Acts. This Bill represents another step along a fairly lengthy journey that has crossed Administrations over many years,” she said.
Senator Johnson Smith pointed out that the Bill will create and maintain standards for the construction and maintenance of physical structures and also provide for a comprehensive approach to the development of the built environment in Jamaica and the promotion of sustainable development.
“One of the most important restrictions in this Bill is on squatting, which continues to be a pervasive national problem. While the issues surrounding squatting have been extensively discussed for years, the ongoing consequences for residents who are involved in squatting, and for the Government and people of Jamaica generally, are significant,” she said
She said the provisions of the Bill will help in reducing squatting in the island and make the country’s rural and urban spaces safer. She added that there are approximately 30,000 households in more than 700 informal settlements.
“I commend the building Bill to this Senate as a comprehensive means of harmonising planned development at the local and national levels. I commend it as the instrument that will bring forth the National Building Code and empower municipal corporations to drive development all over Jamaica as building authorities,” she said.
The Bill provides for the establishment of the National Building Code and identifies the Bureau of Standards Jamaica as the agency that will set the acceptable local and international standards for construction.
In addition, the legislation establishes that the municipal corporations are to be the local building authorities and will be responsible for inspecting, certifying and taking the actions necessary to approve new structures, change existing buildings or destroy dangerous structures.
It also streamlines the permit application system to eliminate unnecessary referrals and expedite responses; facilitate the introduction of special express services; and ensure the rights of persons with disabilities regarding accessibility, safety and user-friendliness.
Debate on the Bill will continue.
The legislation was passed with 24 amendments in the House of Representatives earlier this year.