Sun | Oct 25, 2020

Red Berry residents hunt for home as highway bridge looms

Published:Tuesday | September 22, 2020 | 12:13 AMTamara Bailey/Gleaner Writer
In this July 31 photograph, residents of Red Berry in Manchester walk along the excavated area that will soon be transformed into the May Pen to Williamsfield leg of the South Coast Highway.
In this July 31 photograph, residents of Red Berry in Manchester walk along the excavated area that will soon be transformed into the May Pen to Williamsfield leg of the South Coast Highway.

Winnifred McClarty and her 87-year-old mother, Lena Patterson, are now in limbo as the construction of a section of the South Coast Highway, that will run above their property in Red Berry district, has forced their relocation.

McClarty said her search for a five-bedroom house for her mother and family began in August but the COVID-19 pandemic and a shortage of large rentals have crippled her efforts.

“It is especially difficult to be moving around in COVID and we can’t take the chance … ,” she told The Gleaner. “We have been looking in the Porus area for houses but we haven’t seen anything so far.”

McClarty said the family was initially given an end-of-August deadline but received a four-week extension following talks with representatives of the National Road Operating and Constructing Company (NROCC).

McClarty said she is cautiously hopeful as her lawyers and NROCC representatives continue negotiations.

“… At first, we were told that they would be paying us for our fruit trees and now it seems that won’t be the case … . I’m not sure how much money we will be getting for rent, but I know that at some point in time they will be tearing down the house and we will be paid at market value.”

However, based on the value of the house, McClarty said they will not be able to purchase a new home but will have to acquire land to build another house.

“... Even if arrangements are made for us to still be here, I don’t think it will be safe. For there to be an overhead bridge, I don’t know what will happen to us there when it rains, so we don’t have a choice but to move … .”

Fierce protest

After days of land clearing in July along a section of the May Pen to Williamsfield leg of Highway 2000, a fierce protest by residents of the Manchester district halted China Harbour Engineering Company.

Residents had complained about unauthorised work that threatened the demolition of homes and the disturbing of graves.

Managing director of NROCC, Ivan Anderson, told The Gleaner that works along Patterson’s property have been suspended, but operations are now under way to remove 14 graves adjacent to the Red Berry road.

He said there is a possibility that the family may not have to move permanently if the authorities make changes to the course.

“If we head slightly north, we may be able to avoid them,” he said.

Anderson said he is satisfied with the discussions being had with residents affected by the alignment, particularly in the St Toolis area where houses are now being acquired.

He said NROCC is still on track for completion in October 2022, as there have been no delays.