Vernon: Major developments on for Canterbury

MONTEGO BAY, St James — Residents of the inner-city community Canterbury here in St James are set to benefit from major infrastructural developments, says Councillor Richard Vernon (Jamaica Labour Party, Montego Bay South Division).

Vernon told the Jamaica Observer that a partnership with the United Nations (UN) Habitat, Sandals Foundation and the St James Municipal Corporation (SJMC) is in the pipeline. According to the councillor, the partnership will see the residents’ dream of having a community resource centre with a green space and multi-use play area become reality.

Vernon explained that the plan is to transform a central section of the community referred to as Common. He further noted that the addition of the infrastructure will greatly increase the push for more social intervention in the once volatile community, as the resource centre will be used as a homework centre and training ground for residents seeking employment opportunities to improve their standard of living.

“The idea is that this intervention will allow the youngsters in Canterbury to be trained in different skills and then employed in the hospitality industry. They can also have meetings and join with the church to do homework programmes,” Vernon told the Sunday Observer.

Vernon stated that while the project has not started, it is hoped that a significant amount of the work will be completed by July of this year, with the continued partnership of the community members.

“We are currently trying to work out the little details of engagement to ensure that we have everything legally before we move forward and that is why we have not said much about it then. But we are moving forward now, which means that stakeholders in the community and property owners will have to engage and partner with us to see this through. The only way that this programme can be derailed is if we don’t get that support, and so far we have been getting it,” Vernon said.

In addition to the project, Vernon told the Sunday Observer that the Government’s plans to relocate some residents of Canterbury and construct a road leading into the community will also be recognised.

“We need to create access to the community and the Government is working to ensure that we have that and the infrastructure is upgraded,” he said.

The project was first announced in 2018 by Member of Parliament for St James North Western Dr Horace Chang. Back then, Dr Chang said in facilitating its relocation, that the Government would construct 76 housing units under a $550-million project designed to transform the inner-city St James community. According to Dr Chang, who is also minister of national security, the project was slated to get off the ground later that year with funding from the National Housing Trust.

However, Vernon told the Sunday Observer that the project was stalled because residents were hesitant to relocate, out of fear that it would cause a dent in their pockets.

“When we did the survey following the flood in 2017, many residents wanted to relocate from Canterbury but a few months after that the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation did another survey and at that time they did not want to relocate,” Vernon said.

Though he could not provide a start date, the councillor said the issues have since been ironed out and the Government is moving forward with the project.

“The terms of relocation is what some of them were concerned about. They [wanted] to know whether they would have to pay for the new unit that they will occupy, but the Government is working as best as possible to ensure that is not the case,” Vernon told the Sunday Observer.

“The Government has done the assessment and they are looking at a place now, it has been earmarked, but I won’t disclose as yet. But it is moving ahead for them to be relocated to,” he said.

Vernon stated that once the residents are relocated, work will begin to construct a road leading into the community. He pointed out that residents were also concerned about this plan as a bypass Canterbury “is off the books”.

“They are okay with it being a roundabout and the same road you drive into the community on is the same road you exit with, but not passing through as a secondary road to King Street. It is really to create access to the necessary things that can be offered to the community,” he said.

The addition of this road will assist in further transforming and developing the inner-city community, Vernon said.

“When you stand at King Street and overlook Canterbury, you look at numerous concrete structures built by materials transported on people’s heads. The entire community was built on people’s heads and shoulders but we cannot take Canterbury to the next stage on heads and shoulders, so it needs access before we can have that conversation,” Vernon told the Sunday Observer.

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