Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

A development is defined as the “carrying out of any building, engineering, mining or other operations in, on, over or under land, or the making of any material change in the use of any buildings or other land”.

Town & Country Planning Act, 2011 Section 5 [2]

Approval for each development is a legal requirement to ensure public safety and proper management of land use.

1. a timber structure
2. a container
3. alterations/improvement of a building
4. renovation/change of roof
5. new building
6. food for the poor structures

The Building Act, Town and Country Planning Act, Local Improvement Act, Natural Resource Conservation Authority, Local Authority Act etc

You will be:

      • In breach of the Town & Country Planning Act and the Portmore Municipal Council Building Bylaws
      • Liable to penalties

In respect of the Town & Country Planning Act 1957 (Amended 1999), a Stop Notice and an Enforcement Notice can be served on an owner/occupier and if he or she fails to obey the notices, a fine up to one million dollars ($1,000,000) can be imposed and, thereafter, a fine of five thousand dollars ($5,000) per day if the development continues and, in the event of a Court conviction, your property could be forfeited.

A building is:

a) A physical structure, whether a temporary structure or not, and any part thereof or any architectural or engineering product or work erected or constructed on, over or under land or the sea or other body of water; and

(b) includes a domestic building, public building and a building of the warehouse and public class;

A building code, or building control, is a set of rules that specify the minimum acceptable level of safety for constructed objects. The main purpose of the building code is to protect public health, safety and general welfare as it relates to the construction and occupancy of buildings and structures. The building code becomes law when formally enacted by the appropriate authority.

A building permit is a formal approval from a municipal authority to construct, modify, extend or renovate any structure.

If you do not intend to build within the initial six (6) months after approval has been issued, please take the plans back to the municipal authority to get them revalidated. The fee is 10% of the original building fee or a minimum of $5,000.

A permit may only be revalidated for two (2) years, that is a total of 4 times. After that, a new plan must be submitted.

        • To erect a building
        • To make additions/alterations and repairs
        • Temporary buildings and farm houses
        • Change of use of building from one use to another e.g. Residential to commercial or commercial to industrial etc.
        • The demolition of a building

For building applications, the following are required: –

      • Completed application form with the prescribed fees
      • Proof of ownership
      • A certified copy of the registered title. In the absence of the registered title, a certified copy of any of the following is required:
          • Probated will
          • Certified sales agreement (transfer stamp duty)
          • Deed of gift or conveyance letter from an attorney or Government agency for land settlement
          • Letter of authorisation from the owner, stamped and signed by a Justice of the Peace or a Notary Public
          • Certificate of tax payment
          • Surveyor’s report/diagram
          • Location map (1:1,500 to 1:12,500)
      • Building plan – Detailed construction drawings for the proposed development to include:
          • Foundation
          • Site plan (showing building layout and footprint access and egress/exit
          • Elevation
          • Section
          • Electrical
          • Roof
          • Sewage
          • Drainage etc.
            (See checklist – Development application guidelines)

The number of copies required for specific submissions/applications are as follows:

      • Single family residential – 4 sets
      • Multi-family residential      6 – 10 sets
      • Commercial  –   6 – 10 sets
      • Institutional  –   6 – 10 sets
      • Industrial       –  6 – 10 sets
      • Resort            –   6 – 10 sets

Developments requiring more than 6 sets of plans is dependent on whether they require planning permission from NEPA or not.

The approximate approval time for residential plans is 6 to 8 weeks and 3 to 6 months for commercial plans. Approval time for commercial plans depend on the number of agencies that need to give recommendations on the plan.

The building approval process takes place in the following phases:

•  Pre-Assessment – The proposed application goes through a 3-5 day assessment period to determine if the application meets the checklist requirements (Put hyperlink). After the assessment period, an e-mail notification is sent, stating acceptance or rejection and the actions to be taken thereafter, as well as fees payable, to commence the processing of the application. The process does not commence unless full payment is made.

•  Payment – Full payment accepted (e-receipt)

•  Processing – Circulation to various departments and commenting agencies involved in the development approval process for review. This process may take approximately 21 days.

•  Decision – The planning committee of the local authority takes a decision to approve, refuse or close the application. This decision usually comes 90 days after acceptance. Where additional information is required for further processing of the application, the time period ceases pending the submission of required amendments.

•  Decision communicated to applicant

•  The following process flow diagram will be accompanied with a calendar to track the processing time

A building permit is renewable up to a maximum of three (3) consecutive six (6) month periods. Any subsequent request shall result in a new application being made to the relevant local authority.

Yes, an approval may be amended by returning the building permit, conditions and stamped plans, along with the new plans for an amendment to the approval. The fees for amendments to residential and commercial applications are $3,500 and $9,750 respectively. 

• Minimum Building Setback from property boundaries

(a)15-20 feet minimum from front property boundary (or check requirement on title of the property)
(b) 5 feet from side boundary for single story buildings only. For other buildings above single story, the requirement varies.  Checks should be made with the Council (or check incumberances on title of property)

Density – the amount of habitable rooms (All per acre.  Minimum 30 habitable rooms per acre.)

Amenity Area – For multi-family buildings i.e. apartment buildings,  space must be set aside for recreational and landscaping purposes,  including swimming pools, communal lounges, etc. for general  recreational purposes at the following rates: studio unit 150 sq ft/unit;  one bedroom unit 300 sq. ft./unit; two bedroom

A subdivision is when land is split into two or more pieces or parcels for sale, gift or lease. The regulations of Local Improvements Act govern this process so that:

      • The proposed use is suitable for the land.
      • The plan fits in with the local legislation and policies.
      • The people in the area are protected from developments that are unsuitable or cause distress on the services in the area.

If a subdivision plan does not go through the correct process, problems may arise such as a residential area being located in a hazard/flood zone or a customer buying land from someone who is not the owner and thus not being able to obtain their title.

A subdivision plan is a large scale map showing the surveyed land space as well as other information required by the Municipal Corporation, including, but not limited to:

      • The number of lots you plan to divide the land into
      • The proposed use of the lots
      • Name and widths of the existing and proposed roads
      • The existing and proposed heights, sizes and use of buildings so that very heavy buildings are not built on weak soils.

If your application has been refused, the municipal authority is required to do the following:

    1. Write a notification letter to you, stating the reason(s) for refusal and guide as to the process that you can take to appeal this decision.
    2. If the appeal process is unsuccessful, to give a refund not exceeding 50% of the total fees payable.

An environmental permit is required to begin any construction, enterprise or development of a prescribed nature anywhere in the island and the territorial sea.

The permit is intended to safeguard the various environmental/natural resources from direct damage due largely, but not exclusively, to physical development.

For building and planning applications, documents should be submitted in PDF.

The application goes through a 3-day assessment period to determine if it meets the checklist requirements. An automatically generated letter is then sent to the client, stating the action that will be taken by the entity.  Within or after the 3-day period, an e-notification would be sent, stating either acceptance or rejection, and the actions to be taken thereafter.  The process does not commence, however, unless full payment is made.

Each environmental permit is valid for two (2) years.

You need a permission to:

. Erect a Building
. Make additions/alterations and repairs
. Erect temporary buildings and farm house
. Change of use of building from one use to another eg. Residential to commercial, or commercial to industrial etc.
. Demolish a building

The following applications can be submitted online:

. Building applications
. Planning applications
. Environmental applications
. Subdivision applications – 9 (nine) lots and under, under 5 (five) acres

Users can register to use JDAP by selecting the Register button on the Log In screen. The page will redirect to a user registration screen where the user will be asked if they have a Customer Number.

If the user has a Customer Number, they will be prompted to enter the Customer Number along with first name, last name, e-mail address and tax registration number (TRN).

Non-registered users will only have access to general information and  the public search, while a registered user will be able to:

. Register as a new user
. Apply for new permits
. Make payments
. View/update folder and process information
. Submit application for BDPC and EP permits
. Update information
. Upload documents

The main entities involved in the processing of building approval applications are:

. Local Authorities/Municipal Corporations
. National Works Agency (NWA)
. Ministry of Health (Local Health Authorities)
. Jamaica Fire Brigade (Local chapters)
. National Environment and Planning Agency

Other supporting entities are:

. Factories inspectorate (as it relates to factories and industrial areas), Jamaica National Heritage Trust (JNHT) (as it relates to areas declared under the JNHT Act)
. Water Resources Authority (WRA)
. Mines and Geology (MGD)
. Agricultural Land Management Division (Ministry of Agriculture)
. Jamaica Bauxite Institute (JBI)
. National Water Commission (NWC)
. Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM)

• Pick up your approvals. If you are not the owner, s/he must give you a
Letter of Authorisation, stamped and signed by a Justice of the Peace
or a Notary Public.
• Commence construction within six (6) months of the issuance of the
permit or it shall lapse.
• Contact the appropriate departments to carry out the inspections during
the course of construction.
• Keep a copy of the plans and permits on site.