A Government legislator has called for more careful development of this island’s west coast.
Speaking in the Upper House during debate on a resolution to abandon the compulsory acquisition of land at Weston, St James, Senator Harry Husbands also complained of poor maintenance of watercourses, along the so called “platinum coast”.
“Every year it was a major challenge to get the Drainage Division to come out and clean the watercourses,” Husbands lamented, while suggesting that the drains should be cleaned at least once a year, just before the annual rainy season.
“But every year, we get a myriad of excuses and eventually nothing happens until the season is drawing to a close,” he said, while cautioning that “we must take this situation very seriously, because one year when we drag our feet on it a major catastrophe may occur”.
Husbands, who is the ruling Democratic Labour Party’s representative for St James North, which includes the community of Weston, also highlighted the need for public education to make residents more aware that they should not use watercourses as dumping grounds.
“People build houses and dump old concrete and wood into watercourses, as well as their garbage,” he said, adding that “Town Planning must be more careful in giving out construction permits, especially on the seaside, as some of the beachfront properties are at the mouth of those watercourses”.
Zeroing in on what he said were “serious housing issues” along the west coast, Husbands pointed out that “if you leave Trents playing field and drive north, there are several dozen right turns you can make off Highway 1 [and] if you see the conditions under which some people live on what is known as the ‘platinum’ or ‘gold coast’, you would be amazed.
“There are also no playing facilities for young men, you have to go to Speightstown for that. There is one community centre at Weston which has a small road tennis court next to the road, but it is not really fit for use since it is next to a busy highway,” he told members of the Upper House.
During debate on the resolution which will ensure that lands at Weston, which were compulsorily acquired by Government, are returned to their original owners, Husbands further lamented that all too often, “Government creates disquiet among people whose land and properties they compulsorily acquire, since they often take years to compensate them”.
In her contribution to the debate, Leader of Government Business in the Upper Chamber, Senator Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo also expressed concern about the lack of proper drainage and building practices that have resulted in the blockage of natural watercourses.
The land in question is a watercourse that was blocked owing to a construction project on the west coast, which after a period of heavy rain in the summer of 1995 overflowed and caused severe flooding in Weston, which led to the death of entertainer The Great Carew, whose house was on the beachfront.
In view of this Byer-Suckoo said: “We have no control over the weather, but we have to be mindful of drainage.
“Growing up, I remember people throwing garbage in the gullies because of inadequate collection, but now we know better than this, it is better disposed of by the SSA [Sanitation Service Authority] in the landfill,” she said while calling on community groups to “take responsibility”.
“Get together, pay a person in the community with a truck to move the old furniture out of the neighbourhood, there is no need to dump it in gullies,” she said.
The former Member of Parliament for St George South also expressed concern about some of the housing projects taking place in that constituency, while reporting that “people have filled in the gullies, sometimes without getting the necessary permission from the Town & Country Planning Department, and because of this, we now experience flooding in some communities in St George where we never had that problem before”.
Warning of the long-term negative impact on the country, she said: “when we damage our coral reefs via garbage and pesticides, when we don’t protect our topsoil, we have a problem, as we need the coral reefs to protect our coastline.”