The troubled rural community of White Hill, St Andrew could soon be no more and residents will have little say on the matter.
The Ministry of Housing and Lands announced in a statement this evening that the relocation of 22 houses to Farmers, St Thomas, which began in 1999, is set to resume in earnest and there will be no resettlement in the community located in the Scotland District, which is prone to land slippage.
The announcement comes on the heels of a visit by Minister of Housing, Lands and Rural Development Dennis Kellman to the affected district, which has been virtually cut off after a major landslide destroyed the main access road in 2014.
Just last month, residents who have been pleading to the Government to address their plight took matters into their own hands and started to build a new road.
However, according to the ministry’s statement, after observing the extent of the land slippage and its negative impact on the houses, Government officials, including Chief Town Planner Mark Cummins have strongly discouraged any resettlement in the area. The Ministry of Housing has also warned that tough enforcement measures will be imposed to guard against this.
Government is proposing to compulsorily acquire the land from White Hill residents once the construction of the new houses are completed at Farmers, St Thomas and is cautioning that those who resist this could be penalized.
“Any person who willfully chooses to erect structures in White Hill, St Andrew, are doing so at their own risk, and they will not be eligible for relocation by Government,” the ministry said.
Furthermore, once the new houses are allocated to White Hill residents, “the Ministry of Transport and Works and the National Housing Corporation will dismantle and remove the original houses from their locations in White Hill to prevent resettlement,” the statement added.
The ministry also disclosed that it had started “periodic monitoring” of the priority areas adding that any new construction will be reported to the Town & Country Development Planning Office, which has the jurisdiction for development control.
Five new houses will be constructed this financial year and another seven in 2018 at Farmers.
While assuring White Hill residents that they would not be disadvantaged, the ministry said: “The new houses are timber, masonry or mixed material construction and range in size from 412 square feet to 1,300 square feet with an average lot size of 3,000 square feet.
“These replacement units are being provided free of cost, while the land on which they are sited is being sold to non-land owners at $2.50 per square foot,” the ministry said.