White Hill residents being offered $25 000 to relocate their homes to Farmers
Nearly a month before a section of the road at White Hill, St Andrew was extensively damaged by heavy rains, Government had already completed five houses at Farmers, St Thomas, for the relocation of residents whose houses had been threatened by soil slippage.
Additionally, Government had plans to offer a grant of $25 000 to assist the affected homeowners in relocating.
Minister of Housing, Lands and Rural Development Denis Kellman made the disclosures in an interview with Barbados TODAY this afternoon in which he said the matter was the subject of an October 30 Cabinet Paper and that 25 houses at White Hill were earmarked for relocation, five of which had already been completed at Farmers for five families.
“We have also set a policy that where homeowners own the land on which the house is located [at White Hill], they would get land at Farmers, St Thomas. If you do not own the land, you would be able to buy the land at $2.50 a square foot,” Kellman explained.
He also said Government would be seeking to ensure that “no one will be able to return to White Hill because it will be a swap”.
“It means that when the resident leaves White Hill the land automatically goes to Government,” the Minister of Housing and Lands added.
Following a tour of the collapsed section of the community last week, Minister of Transport and Works Michael Lashley had reported that the impassable section of the St Andrew road would be closed while the Government considered alternatives for assisting residents in the rural district.
However, the Minister of Housing stressed today that the relocation process had started, while pouring cold water on suggestions that the area should be abandoned.
“We did not wait for the last slippage in November this year. Some people are saying that as many as 100 houses would have to be relocated, but that is if you do not repair the road. However, I believe that the road is too important an artery to be abandoned.
“In my opinion the cost of relocation will be much higher than reconstructing the road,” he argued, pointing out that “where there is land slippage in other places, Government will be offering a grant of $25 000 to homeowners to resite themselves”.
Meanwhile, residents in White Hill have been calling on the Government to provide temporary access to their homes following closure of the collapsed road last week.
“I have been living in this district for the past 57 years and I have never seen it like this,” complained Arlington Murray, who has been a resident of White Hill all of his life.
“We would appreciate if every house in the district was relocated, but I am aware of the economic concerns. I am aware that any relocation programme will take years. However, our immediate concern is a temporary road to get in and out of the district.
“If a resident has to travel from White Hill to Hillaby, which is about three minutes drive, the resident has to travel to St Andrew. You either go around Belleplaine or around Sturges, just to get back here,” he said, while appealing to Government to do something about the situation.
“People in White Hill are cut off from churches. We are cut off from shops. We are cut off from our families. Owners of mechanic workshops and bodywork facilities are now cut off from their customers. Most of the residents who have relatives in Farmers, Braggs Hill and Hillaby [in St Thomas] are now cut off from them,” Murray said, adding that, “up to now no one in Government has come to us to say how we are going to get in or out of White Hill.”
Murray further noted that while officials had abandoned the White Hill Road, no one had come up with an idea of putting in a temporary road.
“The Transport Board has provided a shuttle service, but it is only coming from near the collapsed road to the bottom of road and that is linking up with the Shorey Village bus, but what happens to residents who work after 9 p.m., 10 p.m. and 11 p.m.?
“I feel that Prime Minister Freundel Stuart should make a statement on the matter,” Murray added.
Another resident, 68-year-old Lionel Lowe, who has driven minibuses in the area for more than 30 years, described his hometown as “no one’s place”.
He said over the weekend residents came up with an improvised solution of a footpath.
“It is a sad disaster. We need urgent assistance because there are many sick people in the White Hill area,” he said.
Shopkeeper Dianne Clarke, who has been living in the district for the past 11 years, complained that while the parliamentary representative for St Andrew George Payne had visited the district, Democratic Labour Party candidate in the 2013 general election Irene Sandiford-Garner had been a no-show.
“I would like to be relocated as soon as yesterday,” she added, pointing out that “as the land continues to slide it is affecting the functioning of my toilet facilities and I have to be calling the plumber on a regular basis to fix my plumbing.
“The slippage is pulling out the pipes all of the time and that is not healthy.”
Shopkeeper Allison Jemmott, who has also been operating a shop to the northern side of White Hill for the past four years, complained that since the road collapsed, she has had to have suppliers drop off her goods at her mother’s residence in Chapman Village in St Thomas.
While lauding the work done by the Barbados Light and Power Co., in having the power supply restored in short order, she complained that none of the Government officials had returned to village to carry any further evaluation since last week.
Jemmott also complained that there was a pile of garbage in White Hill for over seven weeks.