North Side MLA Ezzard Miller is proposing a 30-foot-wide arterial road linking Rum Point to the Bodden Town district to make it easier for farmers to access arable land in the area and to prevent drivers speeding through residential areas of North Side.
The proposal to gazette the road, along with a suggestion to create two new farm roads in the area, topped the agenda of the Agriculture Society special meeting attended by nearly 100 people last Thursday at the agriculture pavilion.
Mr. Miller said the proposed new road could cut the incidences of people speeding through North Side and Old Man Bay from Rum Point and would mean farmers could have road access to otherwise inaccessible land.
“What we are looking for is a shortcut to George Town, the [East-West Arterial Way] will not help us from North Side, that will only help Frank Sound. What we want is the road from Driftwood to come straight south to connect with Lookout and the National Roads Authority has agreed that they will put it forward as a future arterial with Rum Point,” Mr. Miller said.
The arterial road would come off Rum Point Road in the Driftwood area and exit in Belford Estates, Bodden Town. It would also link two proposed farm roads – one heading south from Willie Ebanks’s farm in Hutland and the other behind Grape Tree Point.
The idea of the public arterial road was met with some resistance from farmers, with several questioning the need for a bigger road, saying a 20-foot easement access would be sufficient to enable them to access land.
Kurt Tibbetts, the minister responsible for agriculture, his deputy chief officer, Leyda Nicholson-Makasare, Agriculture Department Director Brian Crichlow and Deputy Director Adrian Estwick and a number of Agriculture Society board members were among those who attended last week’s meeting.
Some farmers put forward concerns about potential complaints and objections about the proximity of animal farms or pig pens to sub-divisions built by developers on land that had previously been farmland.
Mr. Tibbetts responded to those concerns by saying, “It is the landowners who sell the land. If people have land and use a portion of it for farming and sell, you sell at your own risk. Just understand the people you sell to have the same rights as you who sell.”
Mr. Miller said some landowners had already agreed to give up a portion of their land to accommodate the road, but added that it was yet to be determined how the proposed arterial road will be built.
All parties admitted the road proposal would take many years to come to fruition. “If you want this thing to happen, put the plans forward, get the people involved,” said Minister Tibbetts. “It is no crime when you go at it, or [else] it becomes un-doable … Let no one who sits by a desk and looks at a map and draws pretty pictures say it can or can’t happen.”
He also assured that government is willing to look at the proposals and do whatever possible to assist the farmers.
“Government might not have finances to give, but there is other assistance we can give once everybody wants this thing to happen for the farming community,” he said.
The only drawback Mr. Tibbetts saw with plan was the expectation of government doing improvements on the road, since it would not be possible in the next few years. “If that is not going to be any part of the plan, I suspect you could work it out,” he said.
Mr. Miller assured the Agriculture Society and Mr. Tibbetts that landowners have proposed giving up rocks and soil on the land to quarry owners in exchange for getting the road built. Whether that will work remains to be seen, he said.
“We are to this point now, and so many good things have happened with farming, let’s step it up a notch and do all we need to do, which is not harder than what we are doing now, but we can get so much better results. It is what we call togetherness,” Mr. Tibbetts said.