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Prime Minister, Bruce Golding, has reiterated that the acquisition by the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) of the property at Ferry, St. Catherine, which houses the Hydel Group of Schools, was consistent with the UDC’s development plan for the Caymanas land.
“This plan provides for the mixed-use development of these lands including provision for residential, agricultural, light industrial, commercial, institutional, sport and recreational facilities. The residential component involves the construction of over 4,000 houses, 85 per cent of which will be for low to middle-income families. This will obviously require considerable social infrastructure including the provision of schools,” Mr Golding said during a statement in the House of Representatives yesterday (Nov. 11).
The acquisition, he said, has also prevented the demise of a well-run school, which is providing education for more than 1,200 children in an area desperately short of school places. He pointed out that the plains of St. Catherine and Clarendon, with its rapidly growing population, suffer from the most acute shortage of school places.
The Opposition has questioned the Government’s decisions to acquire the Ferry property, which was purchased at cost of $168.7 million.
The Prime Minister said that the Hydel Group of Schools faced imminent closure as the owners of the land had put the property up for sale but had the operator of the school “been in a position to purchase the land there would have been no need or opportunity for the Government to intervene since its continued operation would have been secured and it would ultimately be integrated into the development plan.”
Hydel, he said, was served notice to vacate the premises in 2007 and “to do so would have meant its inevitable closure, the land would most likely have been used for some other purpose and the Government would have been obliged to find school places for the 1,283 students enrolled at Hydel.”
Responding to arguments from the Opposition that the Government should have built a new school, the Prime Minister said it would cost $400 million to $500 million to accommodate the number of children who would have been displaced. “We have bought a property with equivalent accommodation for $168.7 million!” Mr Golding stated.
He invited Contractor General, Greg Christie, to investigate the purchase of the Ferry property.
“I welcome his investigations. He has a duty to monitor the integrity of the transaction. I have that duty too but, in addition, I have a duty to protect the interests of our children. As Prime Minister, I accept full responsibility for the decision by the Board of the UDC for which I have ministerial responsibility,” the Prime Minister stated.