The Orange Walk Town Council held an open council meeting last night during which they officially adopted the Municipal Development Plan for Orange Walk. The adoption of the plan is the last leg of the work that begun in 2013 through the Belize Municipal Development Project under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Agriculture. Keisha Rodriguez is the Urban Planning Officer and told us more about the project.

Keisha Rodriguez – Urban Planning Officer, BMDP

“We prepared the plan with the collaboration with the local planning working group here in Orange Walk as well as a consultant team, Institute for International Development, and us working at the ministry as well and really it was a of work and a lot of meetings and so forth so it is really Orange Walk’s plan and the people prepared the plan where the residence of Orange Walk town, we had stakeholders meetings and we meet with different sectors of the society here in Orange Walk and all of that contributed to what is in the development plan.”

The working team has been traveling the country visiting participating municipalities as they hold the open meetings, with the exception of San Pedro and Belize City says Local Government Officer Clifford King. King says that the plan is more of a strategic frame work for the development of the participating municipalities.

Clifford King – Local Government Officer

“I’ve heard mayors across the country indicate that they are very grateful that these plan exists because they really speaks on how we approach development and how we should approach growth and what are we going to do in terms of the next 15 years, in terms of how we handle where people live, how we drive and how we develop economical, how we develop culturally, how we develop our tourism product, how we develop our social programs and these plans speaks to these things and we’ve had significant and various stakeholders meetings in all municipalities, we have received a very broad acceptance of these plans.”

The plans, says King are subject to change as the need arises and as it suits each municipality. Since residents played an active role in the development of these plans, King says they are responsible for holding the councils accountable. He adds though that financing may be a challenge for some council’s but should not be a deterrent to accomplish what has been stipulated in the plans.

Clifford King – Local Government Officer

“It is up to the municipality and the partners to find the financing the requisites financing to implement projects and so the council should have to be very serious about working with Central government and very serious about working with the public and private partners to develop municipalities, development municipalities don’t rest solely with the central authorities or the local authorities but really with the kind of partnerships that are built within the municipalities so people participation is absolutely important.”

The plans focus on infrastructure and capacity building among other things. Mayor Kevin Bernard commented on the plan.

Kevin Bernard – Mayor Orange Walk Town

“We have a plan where we want to see our country grow and what I like about the plan is that and what is very much important to say is that we as a council have seen where in the next three years some things of that plan has to have been put into effect and that is the reason why as we are also in the campaign trail, we have shown the people as the political manifesto of the PUP team we have been able to put in things from the plan that we will ensure that are develop; we are talking about the market expansion, we are talking about the riverside development project, the Independence plaza development project, the Union Town park project and these are things that we are telling and we are putting into our manifesto what we can achieve so what this manifest speaks off is also how we improve our infrastructure we outlined in that plan the major outlets of this town and that is why as a council we started to implement portion of that plan where we started to cement intersection and then we were looking up to in the next three years to make sure that we can make the municipal bond so that we could start then do all the paving of the major roads, the major connecting roads that will at least will have people traverse in from their home to down town but most importantly this plan is for the people, it is a working document and it will have to gradually be improved as we go along based on the needs of the town. It’s a long term plan and it is not something that will happen tomorrow or overnight we have to work that plan so that we could achieve the objectives of the plan.”

Bernard says the plan for Orange Walk also includes projects on town expansion and proper drainage systems.