By Elesha George
Officials have pledged that a bypass constructed in St Thomas in Bendals will be removed after its intended purpose has been served.
The road development, which is currently underway, is causing an obstruction to a natural waterway in the area because of how it is constructed.
Last week, engineers began using heavy equipment to prepare the site that would create a link between Bendals and the Bathlodge community.
“This is a pond that has been filled,” the opposition United Progressive Party’s caretaker for the area, Senator Jonathan Joseph, said when OBSERVER media visited the site on Monday.
He explained that the water channel goes as far back as Buckleys, down to Big Creek and then to the beach.
“It’s a good idea to have a connection with both areas, but what we’re saying is to build a bridge,” he stated. “To totally fill the pond up, it doesn’t make any sense and the residents here are concerned as to where the water would go.”
One such resident is homeowner Stafford James, who lives adjacent to the road development project. His concern is that the runoff from heavy rainfall will flood his property.
“We are very concerned about the level of the water,” James said. He is afraid that the water will accumulate and flood his home more than it normally would if the pond hadn’t been blocked.
At the time of Observer’s visit, it was not clear which agency was constructing the road and residents said they had not been informed via any meeting or consultation about it.
Observer reached out to the Deputy Chief and Country Planner at the Development Control Authority, Clement Antonio, who promised to send an officer to assess the site.
Following up the matter on Tuesday, he said that the road is “a temporary measure” that has been put in place to facilitate the relocation of some residents of Booby Alley to make way for an urban development project.
“DCA will see to it that it is restored right after the relocation,” Antonio said.
The directive to build the road, Observer was told, came from the Prime Minister’s Assistant on Special Projects, Hyacinth Lewis.
On Tuesday, Minister with responsibility for Housing, Land & Urban Renewal, Maria Bird-Browne confirmed that information, referring to Lewis as the “project coordinator from the Prime Minister’s Office”.
Minister Bird-Browne also claimed that the road development project was brought to her attention on Monday, and that the DCA “had to step in” since the proper procedure had not been followed. She also confirmed that equipment from the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CHAPA) was being used “to help prepare the site”.
Meanwhile, Lewis told OBSERVER media that the issue was being addressed and should “be settled by the end of next week”.
“That [possibility of flooding residents’ homes] is being addressed as we speak. I was told about it this morning but it is being addressed as we speak,” she insisted.
Responding to the timeline for the removal of the bypass, Lewis said, “I am not the one who is doing it but that is what I’m being told; that it should be clarified soon.”
Dave Fenton, the Supervisor of Heavy Equipment at CHAPA, told Observer that there had always been a road in the area.
“It’s not a bypass; the road was always there. They have been using that for years,” he stated, refusing to give any further comment.
In response to Fenton’s statement, Senator Joseph said, “if we’re experiencing a drought, we can walk across Potworks Dam”, suggesting that the area in question is only passable during the dry season. On Monday and Tuesday, calls to the MP for the area, Molwyn Joseph, went unanswered, while the Minister of Works, Lennox Weston, said his engineers had “no information on that road”.