LUCEA, Hanover - Prime Minister Andrew Holness is calling for buy-in from the Parliamentary Opposition to a proposal to build a new capital for the parish of Hanover.
"I am using this platform, where I have both sides of the aisle as it were, to say to you: for one moment, put aside the politics and look at the development," appealed Holness.
He was addressing an ecumenical church service at the 298-year-old Lucea Anglican Church on Sunday to mark the start of a year-long series of activities to celebrate the parish's 300 years of existence.
Noting that the existing infrastructure is not able to maintain the buzz of activity within the town, the prime minister told those gathered that, "We literally are going to have to build a new town."
He pointed to similar actions being undertaken in St Thomas, where the Morant Bay Urban Centre is being created along with new roads.
Holness said the same can be done for Hanover, but consensus is needed so that "a good plan is not eroded".
The prime minister said the minister of state in the Office of the Prime Minister (West) Homer Davis is being tasked with the responsibility of starting the preliminary work on a new capital. He said Davis had broached the topic with stakeholders in the parish and the 300th celebration is an ideal time to move into "high gear".
"We are going to reach that point where you have an entire new town. You develop the old town, you do the road, and this parish is improved. You would have utilised the port and [get] the quality of life that you want," promised Holness.
The prime minister spoke of the new road for the parish that will bypass the congested towns of Hopewell and Lucea. He pointed out that 300 years ago there was no threat of climate change as there is today. Noting that Lucea is below sea level which results in flooding whenever it rains, Holness said the town has outgrown its space and a new road in a new position is needed.
"The new alignment will have to shift inwards and higher so that in 100 to 300 years we can say that, that road was well thought out," he said while pointing out that the current roads were constructed along the coastline as a connection to the then ports across the island.
The prime minister said consideration must be given to growing the town away from the waterfront while maintaining it as a historic site and building out tourism and other forms of economic activity around it.
Holness conceded that people may become frustrated by unfulfilled promises, but he cautioned that change takes time and urged residents to get involved in the process.
"That is what I want the people of Hanover to note once we put the plan in place, that plan works because we will eventually get there," stated Holness.
Entertainment and fireworks followed the church service which saw the US Ambassador to Jamaica Nikolas Perry, whose parents are from Hanover, among those in attendance.
Hanover, which has close to 70,000 residents, was created from a section of Westmoreland on November 12, 1723.
The parish capital is home to the still fully functional Lucea clock tower that was built in 1817; Fort Charlotte that was constructed in 1745 and named after George III's wife Queen Charlotte; and Rusea's High School's Campus 2, which was established in 1777, making it the fourth-oldest continuously operated high school in Jamaica.
The parish is also the birthplace of Jamaica's first prime minister and national hero, Sir Alexander Bustamante; former Prime Minister PJ Patterson; retired Justice Seymour Panton; and is also home to Dolphin Head Mountain, which reaches a majestic height of 1,789 feet above the Lucea Harbour, a once thriving banana, yam, and molasses port. Hanover is also famous for its ground provision, Lucea yam.