The beleaguered community of White Hill, St Andrew is again being assured that help is around the corner.
Minister of Transport and Works Michael Lashley Tuesday revealed he would visit the community either “this week or next week”, to update residents whose concerns over structural safety continue to mount.
Over the last three years, the people of the rural district have had to contend with the dangers of land slippage, an impassable road which prevents comfortable access to the area, unreliable public transportation and water shortages and outages.
Lashley told Barbados TODAY during Tuesday’s lunch recess at Parliament that the plight of the residents was not being ignored.
“Cabinet actually has agreed to do a scientific study of the area and we have employed local engineers,” he said.
“They’ve provided us a draft report and are now to provide us with a final report.”
It was just last week when Barbados TODAY visited the area that frustrated residents outlined a litany of issues, chief among them the lack of proper access to transport in and out of the area and the seemingly deafening silence from the authorities.
The latest woe was a tree hanging perilously over high-tension electric lines, and their many failed attempts to have the Ministry of Transport and Works clear the danger.
“It is hard living in White Hill,” a resident who has lived in the area for the past 30 years lamented.
“People up in here lost their jobs already. Some are being threatened because the employers don’t care about people, they only care about getting their work done.
“The shuttle service does work according to how you get a Shorey Village bus and not too regular you does get one. Sometimes you get the bus every two or three hours, on bank holidays and Sundays it is three hours for sure. The service stinks.”
Heavy rains in November 2014 had caused extensive land slippage in the area, damaging the road, and making it impassable. Soon after it was condemned by the authorities, grinding traffic to a halt.
More than a year later, shortly before Christmas 2015, work began on a temporary road, but it was abandoned when cracks began to appear.
In January last year Lashley announced that a technical team from the his ministry would carry out a scientific study of the temporary road
and that he had expected a report two to three weeks later.
That was after he had promised that a company was on a Government contract conducting some “test holes” that would inform a permanent solution.
As residents continued to air their frustration, Lashley assured them in June last year that Government had not abandoned them, even though it had yet to come up with a “doable and sustainable” solution to the road crisis.
He repeated at the time a technical team from his ministry, led by Acting Chief Technical Officer Nash Lovell, was working on the plans for the way forward, and there would have been an update within a week .
Last November Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler repeated the vow that the Freundel Stuart administration had not abandoned the people of White Hill.
However, Sinckler had warned that there was simply no easy fix to the problems affecting the rural community, adding that even though funds had been earmarked for the restoration of White Hill, there were environmental and engineering hurdles to overcome.
Residents have repeatedly claimed they were being ignored because of the community’s strong support for Opposition parliamentarian George Payne, a charge the Stuart administration denies.
Tuesday, Lashley again repeated the assurance that their concerns were being addressed. “I plan to go up [there] either this week or next week to look at the area again. But as I said, we have just received that draft report. It is now to get them [the engineers] to [finish] the final report. When we receive [it], then we will communicate it to Cabinet and the residents of White Hill on the results and on the way forward,” he said.