The government will not connect the squatter settlement at Pole Yard, Arnos Vale to the national grid, Minister of Housing and Informal Human Settlement, Montgomery Daniel told Parliament on Thursday.
He was at the time responding to a question by Senator Kay Bacchus-Baptiste, who has been identified as the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP’s) candidate for West St. George, where Pole Yard is located.
“Unbelievably, the residents at Pole Yard in the year 2019 do not have electricity. Will the Hon. Minister please say when the Government plans to put electricity there notwithstanding the residents may be relocated in the future?”
In his response, Daniel, who is also Minister of Land and Surveys, and Physical Planning, said, “Unbelievably but true, when this question was placed to the public servants in my ministry for the requisite answer, they were not even sure of the area referenced.
“Mr. Speaker, they came to the realisation that Pole Yard — P-o-l-e , which is along the Rarararou River in the constituency of West St. George, they believe that was the area that was focused and this is the answer that was provided,” he said.
On the order paper, the name of the area, which got its name from the electricity poles that were stored there, was spelt “Poll”.
Daniel told Parliament Pole Yard is an informal settlement that has evolved over many years.
He said that the Ministry of Housing, through the physical planning unit, has made several interventions over the years to control further expansion of the settlement.
“It is identified that because the settlement was very close to the airport, that it would not be expanded,” he said, referring to the E.T. Joshua Airport, which was decommissioned in February 2017.
He said that Pole Yard and the area near to the old airport is low-lying, “and is even threatened by the nearby river, making the area even more vulnerable to heavy rainfall”.
Presently, remedial work is being done to accommodate the proposed new urban development for that area, the minister said.
“So, unfortunately, Pole Yard will not be part of the new development and the residents will not be getting any lights. The residents will be relocated and in light of all those factors, it is not practical to give electricity to the area at this time. When these families are relocated they will have the benefits of all these amenities.”
The government had identified the land at the old airport site for the development of a new city.
In a supplementary question, Bacchus-Baptiste asked Daniel by what time he hopes to relocate the residents, Daniel said Pole Yard is not a new establishment and is very close to where electricity is being generated in the country and has never had electricity.
He said that his Unity Labour Party government, which came to office in 2001, established a ministry to help to control those types of settlements.
“And so where Pole Yard is today, they will be relocated and the government will not facilitate any electricity connections in the area.”
The minister said he has no idea when the relocation will take place because the developments are taking place with the new proposed sites.