The Government says it is pursuing legal options available to it in response to a growing squatter settlement on National Water Commission (NWC) lands in Norbrook, St Andrew.
It made the revelation in a news release on Friday, through the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, in response to media reports of the development which has caused concern among residents of the upscale neighbourhood.
The residents have expressed outrage at the seemingly nonchalant approach of the authorities in addressing the issue which have reportedly caused a number of homeowners to sell their properties and move from the community.
However, in its news release on Friday, the ministry sought to “assure citizens that we are aware (of the problem) and have been taking necessary steps to address the situation.”
The ministry said the NWC has not abandoned any of its properties and the commission served notices on the people occupying the lands at Norbrook illegally.
“The NWC has made several attempts to secure the property and has served 18 eviction notices since 2009,” the ministry said, adding that people who settle on NWC lands illegally do so at their own risk.
According to the release, in responding to the concerns, the NWC has had meetings with the residents of Norbrook and political representatives on several occasions. It added that the NWC president as recently as May 31, 2023, wrote to the Norbrook community group on steps being taken to address the issue.
It said the squatter settlement in Norbrook is approximately 520 acres, of which 420 Acres are particularly sensitive watershed areas which the Government will be moving apace to protect.
It noted that 100 acres of the land are developable without significant environmental impact and the Government will be examining the possibility of leveraging the value of the property for the benefit of the NWC.
The NWC is in dialogue with the National Land Agency (NLA) and the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) with a view of designing a comprehensive development plan for the area, the release added.
“Squatting continues to be a perennial problem in the country. While not insensitive to the needs of people, the Government remains serious about creating an orderly society,” the ministry stated.
“Jamaicans must be assured that any land owned by its agents must be protected and anyone who accesses them must do so through the appropriate legal means. While the Government seeks to address the issues caused by squatting, we must follow the appropriate policies and honour the dignity of people who may not have access to land,” said the ministry.