Grants Pen will become entertainment hub - Robertson
Major developments are afoot for Grants Pen, St Thomas, that will benefit residents who have expressed fears that the Southern Coastal Highway Improvement Project could lead to several displacements.
The revelation came from Member of Parliament for St Thomas Western, James Robertson, who was seeking to quell fears during Prime Minister Andrew Holness' tour on Thursday of the 14-kilometre four-lane roadway from Harbour View in St Andrew to the Yallahs Bridge in St Thomas.
Grants Pen, a fishing village which sits a few miles west of Yallahs, has been bypassed by the highway. The main road no longer runs through the community, which means economic activities are drying up. Robertson told THE WEEKEND STAR that it was "impossible" for the residents to be displaced, largely because the seaside town boasts a rich history that must be respected.
"How is it possible to displace people who have been in the same place from before Paul Bogle, 160 years? Before Jamaica was independent, they were there. It is impossible," Robertson said. Robertson said that Grants Pen has had a history of being a major stop for people going from east to west.
"People would stop there after coming through the hills and onto the flat, they would stop there. Leaving the east, it would be the last hill trucks would have to go, so they [drivers] would stop and they would spend money in the bars and on food and such," he said. Robertson opined that based on the current work, with proper access on the four-lane highway, persons can reach Harbour View and downtown Kingston in the Corporate Area or Yallahs and Morant Bay in St Thomas within seconds of entering the highway.
"So what you are going to find is that the movement is going to be massive and Grants Pen will be developed into an entertainment centre with hundreds of little bars. People are already planning and thinking on what they are going to do. If you check, nobody is selling their lands," he said.
Robertson added that the new road, which gives access to the community, cost about $40 million. He also said that the current design was unavoidable.
"Because of the hills around Grants Pen locking it in, there is almost no other place where the access could have been built. The engineers have indicated that the safest place that they could have built access into Grants Pen is where they built it," he said.
Holness, while making his contribution to the 2023/24 Budget Debate in the House of Representative earlier this year, had disclosed that the completion of the roadwork was expected for April. However, an extension became necessary due to the "amended scope of the contract", according to EG Hunter, the CEO of the National Works Agency.
An additional $22 billion was allocated to continue the work along the highway. Holness said the completion of the project and the Yallahs Bridge will make life easier for residents, especially in the event of flooding.