After more than three years of extensive land slippage, water shortages and an impassable main road, White Hill, St Andrew residents have been assured that help is finally on the way.
Just around 10 a.m. today, Minister of Transport and Works Dr William Duguid, accompanied by Deputy Chief Technical Officer Phillip Tudor and Minister of Housing and Lands George Payne, led a team of officials on a tour of the communities of Dark Hole, Spring Vale, Coggins, Hillaby Turners Hall, St Simon’s and White Hill.
Following the three-hour walk-through, during which they examined the vexing issues of land slippage and deteriorating roads in the Scotland District, Duguid declared that White Hill would be one of the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) Government’s main priorities.
“White Hill is an absolutely essential priority that the Ministry of Public Works will be looking at to try to get that area rectified, and we will be working on that as a matter of urgency,” the recently installed minister assured.
“There is a lot of work to be done out here in the St Andrew Scotland District and the ministry will be working full steam ahead,” he said.
While Duguid was unable to provide a timeline or the estimated cost of the White Hill project, he announced a solution to some of the problems which have affected residents since heavy rains in 2014 collapsed the road leading to the community and caused massive land slippage.
“Clearly there has been significant neglect in this constituency for a long time and now we have to put those wrong things right.
“It is very difficult. The engineers would have to come in and look at the structure, we would have to then make a decision, but there will be options in front of us, whether we will do an alternate road or repair with gabions and drainage” he stressed.
Since the problems began in 2014, residents, led by the unofficial spokesman Carlitha Andrews, had been been at odds with the then Freundel Stuart-led administration, which, drowning in debt and crippled by a stuttering economy, was struggling to find answers to their concerns.
With the hurricane season already under way, the minister today revealed that plans would be put in place to avoid any major land slippage.
“We are certainly looking at all of the drainage, especially the wells. That is a primary importance when it comes to this season. Public Works have been working very hard identifying all the wells that need cleaning to mitigate any problems we would have in terms of flooding. We will be paying close attention to all the areas that have slippage and we will be putting a rapid response team in place,” the minister said.
Meantime, Duguid said Government would erect a Bailey bridge at St Simon’s within the next month in an effort to provide those who live there with a better road.
“We were very keen to get a solution for St Simon’s and . . . we have a possible solution that we should be able to get in about three to four weeks.”
Last September the then Democratic Labour Party (DLP) Government announced that it was moving to relocate 22 houses to Farmers, St Thomas, with a view to ending all housing settlement in the problem plagued area.
It repeated in November, through a Barbados Government Information Service release, that experts had advised against settlement in the area, and anyone engaging in construction there would do so at their own risk, but would also be in breach of Town Planning regulations.
It said then that in order to prevent further development there, Government was looking to compulsorily acquire the land from the owners and dismantle the properties.
However, Payne, the Member of Parliament for the BLP stronghold, today said relocation of the entire community would cost some $25 million dollars, too expensive a project to undertake.
“Whether or not the houses are relocated the artery from Hillaby to Belleplaine must be fixed. If you look at the cost of resiting all of the houses in the White Hill area I think there is no way we will be able to achieve that. There are a few houses near the road that must be relocated. It is extremely costly, it is more costly to relocate than to fix the road in White Hill,” Payne said, adding that residents would only be asked to leave in cases of emergency.