There is confirmation that notices have been served for the occupants of three houses to leave a property that connects with Highway 2000 – not far from Linstead Fire Station in St. Catherine.
The people being accused of illegally occupying the land include a mother and her children who frequent a shack near Vanity Fair Bridge in Linstead. The mother has children who are young adults, but the under-aged ones are said to be four, six, eight, nine, and 12 years old.
They have been living with a male relative in recent times on the land in question. In fact, two wooden houses have been on the property for some time.
A church leader from the United States, Rebecca Stewart, better known as Servant Becky, a few days ago, built a wooden house on the land and furnished it for the mother and children.
She said one of the long-time occupants of the property had given her verbal permission to build the structure at the location.
But it turned out that the person who reportedly gave the permission had no authority to do so. He, too, has been served notice to vacate the property.
The notices, undated and without seal, give the occupants 30 days to leave.
The land is said to be owned by the National Road Operating and Constructing Company Limited (NROCC), a public entity formed to represent the Jamaican government’s interest, under a Concession Agreement signed in 2001 regarding a toll road – Highway 2000.
NROCC is not pleased with the increased level of squatting taking place on the property, according to Sydney Rose, councillor for the Treadways Division in the St. Catherine Municipal Corporation.
He said concerns are also being raised by the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA).
Rose said the illegal buildings have been constructed on “dump-up” land at the foot of Highway 2000, and may eventually undermine the road. Even worse, the occupants of the houses would be in grave danger if a vehicle should fall from the highway, Rose contends.
Questioned about the new house that has been built for the mother and children, Rose said: “It is very unfortunate, but it has to be removed. Number one, it is very dangerous. They built it right under the foot of the highway. God forbids a car or bus drop off the highway, everybody get squash and dead in that house.”
“The second thing is that they would have disturbed the footing of the embankment for the highway. Over time, once you disturb the footing of the highway, you are going to have erosion and the highway is going to collapse – worse if there is going to be continuous use of water,” Rose further commented.
He said the St. Catherine Municipal Corporation was not contacted for approval to build the house, and so it was done illegally. The corporation, Rose added, has come under significant pressure regarding the issue.
Another councillor, Herbert Garriques, who represents Linstead Division where the property is located, noted that the families who initially occupied the land were removed to facilitate construction of the highway.
“NROCC bought the land. The families that were living there – I know all four of them, and they were paid off. So, NROCC owns that piece of land,” Garriques added.
In light of that, he questioned how someone could take up residence on the land, and then encourage other people to follow suit.
Garriques stated that the mother for whom the new house was built at the location has family land in the Deeside area of Linstead.
According to him, several people have assisted the mother or have tried to help her. He said Food For The Poor, at one point, was on the verge of building the family a house at Deeside, but the offer eventually was turned down.
Servant Becky, in the meantime, noted that she at no time spoke with any elected representative regarding the project, adding that her representative here in Jamaica did so.
She added that she does not intend to give up on the children.
“The little children used to sleep in [chicken] coops that I tore down,” she said. “I just want the best for these children; I just wanted to get these children off the street.”
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