United Progressive Party (UPP) candidate for St Andrew Roli Roachford believes the people of disaster-prone White Hill should be given a say in their own future.
Speaking to Barbados TODAY on the sidelines of the launch of her candidacy at the Village Inn Bar in Shorey Village, St Andrew on Saturday night, Roachford charged that the residents had been left out of Government’s decision making, three years after they were essentially cut off from the rest of the island.
Following heavy rains in 2014, the main access road leading into White Hill was officially condemned due to a problem of land slippage. Since then, large cracks have also appeared in a temporary road that was constructed in the rural community, with Government announcing last month that it was now looking to abandon the area as a housing settlement altogether and to continue the relocation process that began in 1999 by transferring homes to Farmers, St Thomas.
However, this decision was met with derision by residents.
“We might be abandoned, but we aren’t stupid. Why all of this time pass? It took them about three years to tell us about relocation. These are bare promises for election [and] we all know that,” community spokeswoman Carlitha Andrews said at the time, while casting suspicion over the Government’s plans.
Following this, the main Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) staged a walkthrough of the area which has long been a BLP stronghold, accusing the Freundel Stuart administration of totally neglecting the people of White Hill.
During the BLP tour, which coincided with planned protests by the residents, BLP incumbent George Payne also promised that if elected in the next general election, the Opposition party would forcibly reacquire commercial lands in Lancaster, St James if necessary, to relocate White Hill residents.
However, Roachford, in sympathizing with the Stuart administration, acknowledged that there was no easy fix to the White Hill problem.
She also said while her party recognized the urgency of community’s plight, it was yet to devise a policy position on the matter.
“It really must be so hard for the people up there. We are working on the policy for the people up there but it is a very tricky situation because you are also dealing with the geographical layout of the land. You have to also deal with the emotions of people who have made that area their home for all of their lives and nobody wants to move away from home.
“At the end of the day you want to keep the people happy and at the same time you thinking of their safety. We don’t want a situation where something happens to someone and the appropriate emergency services cannot reach that person because of the road problems. At the end of the day White Hill residents just want to live like everybody else,” she stressed.