Existing Conditions

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2.1     Environmental Resources

Figure 2.1    Topography of North Montserrat 

2.1.1      Topography and Drainage

The topography of Montserrat is dominated by four volcanic massifs, each in turn cut by numerous valleys and ghauts radiating towards and truncated at a coastline of predominantly steep cliffs, with just a handful of sandy bays and low lying inland flatlands. The massifs from north to south are the Silver Hills (403m), Centre Hills (740m), Soufrière Hills (pre eruption 914m at Chances Peak) and the South Soufrière Hills (756m). The Silver Hills is the oldest part of the island and the original crater can be visited to the north west of the Silver Hills.

Figure 2.1    Topography of North Montserrat

This extremely rugged pattern of topography has strongly influenced land-use and placed a premium on available developable lands.

The islands drainage system is radial in character with stream channels emanating from both the Silver Hills and Centre Hills.  None carry perennial surface water runoff from the island; flow is restricted to times of heavy rainfall and discharges from springs in the Centre Hills. Much of this spring flow is captured in the upper reaches of the water sheds to provide essential water supplies as described in Section 2.14.

2.1.2      Geology and Soils

The soils of Montserrat are predominately Andosols, dark coloured soils developed from parent volcanic material such as ash, tuff and pumice. The island’s small size, steep topography and relatively young age have restricted soil development in much of the north: a critical issue for agriculture and development.  In the higher reaches of the upland watersheds in the Centre Hills, deeper free draining Kandite Latosolics are found in the critically important spring recharge areas.

2.1.3      Climate

Montserrat’s climate is Marine Subtropical, with a prevailing North-easterly trade wind and an average annual temperature of 28oC with seasonal lows in January and highs in September. The island’s mountainous topography has created remarkable rainfall gradients within very small areas; rainfall is highest in the south and west and lower in the north and east, varying from an annual median of 1070mm in drier coastal areas on the eastern side to 2500mm in the Centre Hill peaks.

In broad terms the dry season runs from February to June and the wet season from July to January.  The wet season generally coincides with the Atlantic hurricane season, which sends hurricanes north-westwards towards the eastern Caribbean and Montserrat, bringing high winds and torrential rain; in low lying areas this accompanied by a heightened risk of storm surge.

2.1.4      Terrestrial Ecology

In line with other Lesser Antillean Islands, Montserrat has a rich biota and a very high level of endemism. There are plant and animal species on the island that are found no-where else on earth.  The health of these species and careful stewardship of the natural environment is intrinsically linked to the island’s future. That stewardship is in turn reliant on the effective enforcement of environmental and planning regulations. Many of these regulations require updating; a Conservation and Environmental Management Bill was drafted in 2007 but has not yet been passed by Council and the regulatory framework to support institutional changes, including the creation of a new Department of Environment is not in place. Procedures for Environmental Assessment are unclear and current fines are derisory.  It is anticipated that these matters will be addressed in 2012 once the draft Bill is enacted.

Uncontrolled grazing; roaming feral and loose livestock and vegetation clearance for development and agriculture combine with the effects of volcanic ashfall and predation by non-native species to create a web of man and naturally induced threats to the delicate balance on Montserrat.

Protected Areas

There are 3 terrestrial protected areas on Montserrat covering 11 percent of the total land area and 30 percent of north Montserrat.

The Centre Hills Forest Reserve is recognised as a site of global ecological and biodiversity importance and the primary source of all the islands potable water, its vegetative cover is essential for the continued maintenance of Montserrat’s key watersheds and springs.

The Silver Hills Forest Reserve covers 75 acres of forest surrounded by a complex mosaic of habitat and human activity. Much of the vicinity is of outstanding landscape value with important areas of dry forest and a number of hiking trails.

The Pipers Pond Wildlife Reserve (and the associated Potato Hills Conservation Area) represents the last tract of mangrove swamp on island, supporting some birdlife, but no longer performing its coastal management function; over 20 years of neglect has led to extensive siltation.

All ghauts play an important role in watershed management and for the biota they support; they all have de facto conservation status.


The vegetative cover of Montserrat is largely determined by the levels and distribution of rainfall, which is in turn closely linked to elevation. The pattern of vegetation differs markedly from coast to mountain top, ranging from littoral vegetation influenced by wind and salt spray on coastal strips to ecologically valuable dry forest along ghauts and hill ridges (particularly the east coast) to moisture hungry mesic and wet forest in the higher altitudes of the Centre Hills.

A biodiversity assessment in 2008 confirmed the Centre Hills to be the most important area for bio-diversity on Montserrat. The flora comprises of approximately 1,000 plant species of which nearly 800 are native and two endemic: the Rondeletia Buxifolia (“the Pribby”) and the Epidendrum Montserratense (“Montserrat Orchid”). Both have extremely restricted distributions, the vast majority of which are not protected. A third endemic plant, a type of Willow, Xylosma serratum, is feared extinct.

Not only is the vegetation of Montserrat of national, regional and global conservation significance, but as a system, it protects local livelihoods and will play an increasingly important role in an ecosystems based approach to managing the future effects of climate change.  For example, all potable water comes from the Centre Hills. The forested slopes act as a buffer against the impacts of natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods and volcanic eruptions and they control soil erosion thereby protecting agriculture and fisheries based livelihoods and beach, dive and eco‐tourism. The effects of Hurricane Earl in 2010 are likely to have been exacerbated by poor vegetation and land management practices.


Birds: The bird life of Montserrat is of international significance and interest. The forested green heartland of the Centre Hills and the ghuats that radiate from its slopes are recognised as Important Bird Areas (IBAs) and home to a diverse range of native and migratory species, including the critically endangered and iconic Montserrat Oriole (Icterus oberi). The Silver Hills and coastal cliffs of the north support important breeding populations of seabirds, including Red and White Billed Tropic Birds and Audubon Shearwater, while further inland in the unique and threatened dry forested areas Caribbean Martins, warblers and tanagers flourish. Although inland wetland habitat is limited, the island’s largest pond at Green Ghuat (adjacent to Brimm’s Ghaut), supports a significant population of Moorhen and some American Coot.  In the evenings, Cattle Egrets roost at Carr’s Bay and in woodland at Olveston, and the Brown Pelican, uncommon in the Lesser Antilles, enjoys the calm waters offered at Isles Bay and off the beaches of the north and northwest coast.

Amphibians and Reptiles:  Three species of amphibian and eleven terrestrial reptiles have been recorded on Montserrat, among them the critically endangered Montserrat Galliwasp Lizard and another iconic species, the Mountain Chicken Frog. The Galliwasp sighted on average once every two or three years, is range restricted to a few hectares around Cassava Ghuat, making it one of the least known and understood reptiles on earth. Recent residential sub-divisions in the area and vegetation clearance are real threats to its survival. The Mountain Chicken Frog, once abundant and enjoyed as a local delicacy, is now found only in limited areas of the Central Hills.  First a victim of loss of Wet Forest due to the volcano, the population has been decimated by Chytidiomycosis – an infectious fungal disease of amphibians and it is now the subject of an emergency programme being implemented through the DoE with funding from the UK Darwin Initiative and technical assistance from Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust.

GIS figure 2.2– Montserrat’s biophysical environment




Mammals: The volcanic nature of Montserrat and the fact that it has never been connected to any major landmass accounts for the very limited number of wild mammals on island. The only true natives are the 10 species of Bat that occur island wide.  Four of the species are widespread across the Caribbean, but the rest are restricted in range and two are known only on Montserrat and Guadeloupe – the White-lined Bat and the Yellow Shouldered Bat.

Invertebrates: Knowledge of the insect fauna of Montserrat appears to be growing at an exponential rate – studies undertaken as part of the Centre Hills bio-diversity assessment brought the known number of species to 1240, four times the number known following previous research in 2001. As with other fauna, the Centre Hills is the most studied area of the island and, therefore, the relative limit of current exploration. Of the 1240 species, over 100 are found no-where else in the world.

2.1.5      Marine Ecology

The reef and marine system of Montserrat are under stress with multiple threats, including fishing, sedimentation and coastal currents. The reef system is not conventional; it comprises isolated patches of coral on the west, north and northeast of the island supporting a range of bottom feeders and reef fish in water depths up to 20 meters.  Deeper waters offshore support larger populations of bottom feeding grouper, snapper and butter fish. Previous studies have recognised the exceptional value and diversity of these reefs and recommendations had been made for a mixed use marine reserve, balancing needs of fisherman with marine conservation.

However, there have been rapid changes in the condition of the reef and these proposals no longer appear viable. Volcano related sedimentation, combined with poor land and construction management has destroyed reef areas south of Woodlands Bay; badly degraded areas from Woodlands to Little Bay and is now threatening the health of the reef at Rendezvous and locations further north. A recent acceleration of sediment damage is attributed to the development of Little Bay and mismanagement of the adjacent Phoenix Quarry. Meanwhile, the loss of local fishing grounds due to volcanic activity has intensified fishing activity on the remaining healthy reefs and accentuated problems related to “ghost pots” which continue to capture and kill fish after they have been lost or discarded.  A further threat to Montserrat’s reef system is the recent discovery of lion fish; hungry predators with a voracious appetite.

Efforts are being made to conserve and develop this valuable resource, including an artificial reef and coral harvesting programme at Woodlands Beach.

All beaches on Montserrat support nesting populations of hawksbill & green turtles, with occasional leatherback and loggerhead turtles. Key nesting beaches are Woodlands, Rendezvous, Bunkum Bay, Fox’s Beach/Bransby Point and Old Road/Isles Bay beaches.  Each of these species and their beach nesting grounds are protected under the International Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS).  This has, however, not prevented the removal of beach vegetation, critical for hawksbill turtle nesting, nor the litter of garbage on beaches which attracts rats; rats in turn predate on turtle eggs during the July to September nesting season.

Beaches are also subject to significant erosional processes, which don’t just threaten beach habitat but surrounding structures too, most visibly at Carrs Bay.

2.2     Heritage and Archaeology

Montserrat’s known human history dates back over 2500 years when the population was inhabited by the Tainos, the pre-Columbian saladoid inhabitants of the Lesser Antilles.  Not much is known of this early period of the island’s history and the most intensively studied and documented site now lies in the exclusion zone at Trants.  It was not until 1632 that the island was first settled by Europeans, a British contingent from the St Kitts. Although the original colonists were English and Irish (the Irish as indentured servants), Montserrat quickly became a haven for Irish Catholics escaping from religious persecution.

Known sites of archaeological and cultural heritage are, therefore, predominantly related to these two periods. There has, however, been little systematic or comprehensive survey or study of significant heritage sites in the north of Montserrat. Previous efforts focused on sites that are either no longer accessible or which have destroyed by volcanic activity; for example archaeological and ethnographic research previously focused on locations such as Trants and Galways Plantation (see work of Lydia Pulsipher, for example), while historic building listings and examinations of the Islands vernacular architecture concentrated on Plymouth (Anderson 1993 and Oxford University 1995).

GIS figure 2.3 – Archaeology and Heritage

Most recently the US based Brown University has updated an existing record of known sites held by the National Trust. The inventory includes sites of prehistoric and colonial heritage interest and more recent history, including the famous George Martin Air Studios.  A summary of these sites is included as Appendix G(1) to this PDP and illustrated in Figure 2.3. The list does not, however, constitute a statutory listing. The National Trust are mandated to prepare such a listing as a prerequisite for the implementation and enforcement of key aspects of the PPA (2002) relating to the protection of Montserrat’s cultural heritage. The Trust cannot do this alone. It is among the most resource constrained organisations on island and technical assistance will be required. These same capacity constraints also threaten the future of the Trust’s extensive historic records and archives.

2.3     Disaster Risk and Natural Hazards

The people of Montserrat have been living with the hazards presented by the Soufriere Hills Volcano since 1995; ashfall and acid rain affect every aspect of the physical, bio-physical and human environments while the threat of pyroclastic activity defines the pattern of habitable and developable land. Alongside the omnipresent threat of the volcano, recent history has demonstrated the vulnerability of Montserrat to other natural hazards.  This includes the effects of hurricane winds and rains, storm surges, inland flooding, rock falls, landslides and seismic activity.

Although Montserrat has escaped major hurricane-induced disaster since Hurricane Hugo in 1989, that storm is estimated to have caused up to EC$1 billion in damage to infrastructure with extensive damage to the islands’ ecosystems and biota..  Sustained wind speeds during Hugo were estimated at between 140 and 150 miles an hour, with some investigators estimating that gusts of up to 240 miles an hour may have occurred. Those winds destroyed 45 percent of housing stock; affected 98 percent of all buildings including hurricane shelters, most losing their roofs. 11 people were killed.

More recently Hurricane Earl in 2010 highlighted the susceptibility of the island to the effects of inland flooding. Approximately 12 inches of rain fell in 12 hours bringing extensive flooding and damage to infrastructure in the vicinity of Nantes River, Runaway Ghaut, Cassava Ghuat, Collins River (to the east of Carrs Bay) and Little Bay Ghaut in which the Phoenix Quarry is situated. The Lawyers River also overtopped the A01 Coast Road taking water down to the St Augustine Primary School. There was also extensive erosion in and around smaller ghauts and streams leading to habitat loss and the devastation of private lands.

Generalised seasonal heavy rains have a number of recurring and demonstrable effects.  Heavy rains bring rock fall where the underlying rock substrate has been exposed through vegetation removal or earthworks; at Lookout the infiltration of storm water run-off into the centralised sewage treatment system leads to occasional overtopping of the main plant constituting a public health problem in this residential area.

The effects of high tides and storm surge are compounding the erosional effects of wave action at low-lying Carr’s Bay and Little Bay; the main A01 coast road is frequently damaged along this section. High tides and wind driven waves also exacerbate the effects of inland flooding. Overtopping of the nearby Collins River has caused extensive flooding at the island’s only fuel depot and damage to adjacent buildings and facilities.

The collapse of lava domes and submarine seismic activity have resulted in tsunamis. The December 1997 eruption of the Soufrière Hills volcano caused a tsunami that attenuated quickly to 3 to 4 metres at Old Road Bay, and 0.5 metre on the coasts of Antigua and Guadeloupe.

Earthquakes have occurred in Montserrat caused by high-pressure magma flows within the volcano and less frequently by tectonic movements. Minor tremors are common, but there is always a risk of a larger quake somewhere in the Antillean chain.


2.4     Current Settlement Patterns and Land Use

Provisional results from the 2011 census suggest that Montserrat’s 2011 population of 4882 is spread fairly equally between the main settlement areas. These comprise Brades and Cudjoe Head, Davy Hill, St Johns, Lookout, St Peters and Salem. These areas developed rapidly in the years after the volcanic activity and residential development is generally along the along ridge lines where topography is more favourable to the construction of houses. There are many smaller communities, some of which form part of the larger settlements, the largest being Drummonds, Geralds, Judy Piece and Dick Hill.

Montserrat has a well defined area of low density dwellings along the west coast comprising Woodlands, Olveston, Old Towne and Isles Bay. These are collectively known as the Beachettes areas and the majority of dwellings are villas. Many are owned by retired expatriates. Building design features and activities permitted in these plots are restricted by a Covenant agreed to when purchasing the property. Lookout is Montserrat’s most recent community. It currently comprises approximately 300 dwellings and has been constructed in phases since the late 1990’s.

New development is occurring throughout north Montserrat where land is available to purchase, rather than in specific locations.

Following the loss of Plymouth, Brades has evolved into the focal point and economic centre of Montserrat. The government headquarters are based here in a complex of buildings and the area has a higher than average concentration of shops and services. St John’s, St Peter’s and Salem comprise the secondary commercial and retail centres.

There are several existing industrial areas. In addition to quarrying stone aggregate at Little Bay Ghaut, behind the port, the area is used for vehicle storage, sand stockpiling, and storage of locally manufactured concrete blocks. The bulk fuel facility and a building block manufacturing business are located at Carr’s Bay. The area around the power station at Brades is also industrial with a number of government workshops and car mechanic enterprises. Sand is currently mined in the Belham Valley area.

There are two main areas of agricultural land in north Montserrat, Upper Blakes and Dick Hill (40 acres) and the Duck Pond area north of Salem (60 acres). These are leased from the landowners by the government and sub-leased to local farmers. There are many smaller and fragmented agricultural areas and many households practice backyard farming.

The Silver Hills area is generally used as pasture land and is largely unfenced. The only development in this area comprises several isolated dwellings to the north of Drummonds and a telecommunications facility at the peak. The Centre Hills is a protected forest and its ghauts are generally undeveloped, providing a network of green valleys radiating across the northern part of the island.

The majority of the east coast is undeveloped dry forest and grassland, apart from the Lookout area and the New Windward landfill site.

Figure 2.4 provides an overview of the current land use patterns in north Montserrat, mapped by cadastral land parcels.

GIS figure 2.4 – existing land use in North Montserrat

2.5        Land Tenure

North Montserrat’s total land area, including exclusion zones A, B and F, is approximately 9,980 acres. The majority of land in north Montserrat is privately owned. While the Silver Hills and parts of the east coast and the Centre Hills are held in large parcels by a limited number of owners, the more densely settled areas are in highly fragmented ownership.

In total the government owns 1,176 acres of land as shown on Figure 2.5. This includes Little Bay Estate, Brades, Lookout, St Johns, and Salem where critical services and infrastructure are located, including government headquarters in Brades, the hospital and the DMCA in St Johns, government schools, and several residential areas. Government also owns the land on which the fuel depot is sited at Carr’s Bay and the airport site at Geralds. There are 948 acres of unclaimed land.

A constraint to socio-economic development in Montserrat is that much of the apparently developable land is not available to buy or lease. Culturally, land is an important asset in Montserrat and many individuals and families are unwilling to sell or lease subdivisions or large tracts of land. The problem is compounded by the issue of family land where many family members have equal rights to a land parcel which makes consensus and decision making very difficult.

A further problem is the cost to the land owner of developing large areas of land. It is required by law that land is subject to a topographical survey and that service infrastructure must be provided by the land owner if land is to be subdivided for residential plots. These requirements come at a high cost which deters land owners from developing their land.

It is recommended that the Government considers a range of incentives to help unlock land for private development. These could include a loan or grant to help cover the initial cost or a public private partnership on land ownership.

There are also a number of unclaimed and unregistered land parcels, particularly in the Silver Hills. In 2006 a Bill (the Crown Title Act 2006) was passed by government to provide for the vesting of unclaimed land in the crown. Any unclaimed land not registered by 2020 will be vested in the crown and available for use by GOM.

 GIS figure 2.5 – Private and government owned land

2.6        Demographics and Social Conditions

2.6.1    General

Approximately two-thirds of Montserrat’s resident population evacuated the island following the eruption of the Soufriere Hills Volcano. The de facto population count in September 2011 was 4,882. This figure includes visitors to the island. This unadjusted figure represents an 8 percent increase in population since the last full census in 2001 (4491). When available the full findings of the 2011 census will provide a new robust data set to ascertain progress towards the PDP Phase III target population of 10,000 people and the goals and targets of the SDP.

Very little of this increase can be accounted for by returning Montserratians, or from any substantial increase in the birth rate which remains broadly consistent with overall mortality rate.

The increase has come from immigrants arriving from the wider Caribbean region, predominately from Jamaica and Guyana and the Spanish-speaking Dominican Republic. In 2011 immigrants accounted for just over 18 percent (820) of the population, which grew to 34 percent (1,634) of the population by 2011. Many immigrants are now assimilated and have right of residency.

The increase in a working-age migrant population has offset an aging Montserratian demographic. The working age population (15-65) rose by approximately 7.4 per cent between 2001 and 2006[1].

The pattern of population distribution has changed little since the last census in 2001[2].  In broad terms the pattern is the same; concentrations of population in the north east in the new development areas of Lookout and Drummonds; some new plots in the Barzey’s & Baker Hill area and gradual infill in the villages along the north south coastal corridor, taking in Cudjoe Head and St Peters. Any significant changes have largely been as a result of a phased closure of emergency shelters at Brades, Drummonds and Gerald’s; a move away from shared housing in Salem and the relocation of population for airport construction in 2004. Changes in the overall pattern of population distribution since 2001 is presented in Table 2.1.

Table 2.1     2011 Population by settlement

Settlement Area

2001 Population

2006 Population

2011 Population*





Judy Piece / Dick Hill




St John’s / Mongo Hill
















Davy Hill North




Davy Hill South








Cudjoe Head




Nixons / Banks




Baker Hill




St Peter’s












Salem East




Salem West




Friths / Fleming




Isles Bay / Happy Hill




Old Towne








                            * 2011 district data to be updated once full details of the census are available

2.6.2    Working Age Population and Labour Market

The current labour market structure results in the vast majority of jobs being in the public, business and services sectors. Approximately one-third of the labour force is employed by Government. Only one-quarter is employed in manufacturing, fishing and agriculture and construction or trade crafts.  The majority of unskilled manual workers are non-nationals; in 2010 only 5 percent of migrant workers occupied skilled or semi-skilled positions with approximately 35 percent of migrant men working in construction and 23 percent of migrant women working as domestic helpers.

Currently, the majority of domestic students do not leave the education system with the basic academic education required for the majority of jobs in the labour market. Youth unemployment is consequently high and young and more mobile Montserratians continue to leave for the United Kingdom in pursuit of education and educational opportunities.

Strict controls on the labour market can make it difficult for non-Montserratians to access employment.

2.6.3      Vulnerable Populations, Social Safety Nets and Access to Services

Using the World Bank Atlas method, Montserrat is a middle income country and so does not fit the common criteria for poverty alleviation assistance. It is, however, eligible for overseas development assistance (ODA).  In the absence of robust socioeconomic data poverty and vulnerability are not just defined by income, but by human capital, access to services and housing, employment and quality of life.

Pockets of deprivation exist around the island. Recipients of social welfare support are concentrated in Davy Hill, Hope, Drummonds and Lookout. Households living in Government supported accommodation struggle to maintain the property in which they live. In 2010 there were 69 such households living in under engineered prefabricated and “Force 10” homes at Drummonds, Sweeney’s, Davy Hill, St Peters, Hope and Friths. The post disaster housing policy which grouped vulnerable populations in single locations has accentuated patterns of deprivation and anti-social behaviour.

Over a dozen individuals, all classed as “mentally challenged” are currently housed in the remnants of communal shelters at Brades.

For those eligible, monthly social welfare payments in 2011 represented a 50% shortfall against a benchmarked shopping basket of essential goods (MYACSS 2011). Those trapped in low wage employment may be earning as little as EC$200 a month, while supporting an entire family. Some heads of household are working multiple jobs, often within the informal economy.

The relative scarcity of cheaper or low-end rented accommodation on Montserrat is inflating the cost of average monthly rents; in some areas, leading to overcrowding.  Lower cost rented accommodation, which is focused in Salem, is largely owned by absentee land lords in the United Kingdom. There is no register of private landlords and standards of maintenance are low and living conditions contrast starkly with the residential Beachettes area of Old Road Bay, Isles Bay and Olveston, located less than 1 mile away.

Transport poverty is significant on Montserrat, with a disproportionate impact on the young, the old and migrant populations, all of whom are less likely to have access to transport of their own. The dispersed location of services exacerbates the problem; a single shopping trip may require multiple single fixed fares. For these groups, journey planning must consider the demand responsive and un-timetabled nature of the current private taxi service. A typical wait time in peak hours (am 8-9 and pm 3-5) is approximately 15-20 minutes. Between these hours, wait times can be up to an hour.  After-dark services are almost non-existent.

Problems faced by vulnerable groups are exacerbated for some migrant populations not entitled to social welfare and for whom English is not the Mother-tongue.  Current development planning practices are weak in terms of mobility issues. Many public buildings lack alternatives to stairs.

2.6.4      Housing Issues

There has been considerable progress in the development of a balanced housing market in north Montserrat.  Although a new Housing Bill awaits legislative approval in 2011, the Government is committed to a divestment policy that reduced state involvement in the sector and reduced the unsustainable maintenance burden of its current housing portfolio and stimulates private home ownership.  The policy is also designed to bring socio-economic balance to a number of communities by releasing land in deprived communities for private sector development. In 2011 this portfolio comprised:

  • the remnants of communal shelters at Brades;
  • Single Family Units (single detached temporary structures), mostly on private leased lands at Drummonds, Sweeney’s, St Peter’s, Hope and Friths and further single family units on Government land at Davy Hill;
  • Force 10 houses at Lookout;
  • Prefabricated housing units at Davy Hill.

Forming the bulk of government social housing stock in 2011, these units were designed as emergency and temporary solutions to the post volcano housing shortage and cannot be considered fit for purpose, notably for their lack of hurricane proofing.  In addition, as the housing market recovers in Montserrat and the market value of land increases, the cost to Government of subsidising rent on these lands represents an unsustainable drain.

The approved stock transfer policy seeks to vacate these sites by June 2012. The Government is committed to the protection of the most vulnerable and priority households will be rehoused in alternative accommodation. In 2011, it is anticipated that there will be accommodation available in other government housing including warden supported accommodation at Lookout, Oriole Plaza (mental health issues) and 2 new sets of apartments being constructed at Lookout in 2011.  A range of Government Housing Schemes are designed to support private home ownership among lower income households. These include:

  • Shared equity
  • Rent to own (for social housing tenants) and
  • Reduced interest mortgage loans.

Subject to outcomes of these initiatives and budgetary constraints, the Government recognises that some level of direct new build will still be required for the poorest of the poor, but quantities are as yet undefined.

2.6.5      Health

Control of vaccine preventable diseases has reduced the incidence of serious communicable illness to negligible levels but there has been a marked increase in recent years in diseases of the circulatory system and nutritional and metabolic diseases; both are functions of lifestyle and diet. Diabetes Mellitus was the leading cause of death on Montserrat in the years 2000, 2005 and 2006 among both men and women, with cardio vascular diseases predominating in all other years.  During the period 2000 to 2009, Diabetes Mellitus and Hypertensive Diseases accounted for 25 per cent of all deaths.  Diabetes Mellitus and all Cardiovascular diseases combined accounted for well over half of all deaths. Health Services are described in Section 2.7.1

2.6.6      Education

Socio-economic status can be one of the most important determinants of a child’s educational attainment. An assessment in 2010 of the education system in Montserrat concluded that while results for pupils at primary are appropriate to the pupils’ ages, results at secondary are low compared to regional benchmarks and lower still compared to international standards. Boys generally, and children from low socio-economic backgrounds, are under-performing. At secondary level, attainment by pupils from the Lookout catchment is approximately half that of pupils from St Augustine’s and Brades. None of the schools has the capacity to assist Spanish speakers. School infrastructure is described in Section 2.7.2.

2.7     Public and Social Services

2.7.1      Health Services

The Ministry of Health (MoH) provides primary and secondary health care services. Primary health care services are delivered through the island’s four Health Clinics in Salem, St. Peter’s, Cudjoe Head, and St. John’s, which are open during working hours (8-4 Mon-Fri). The services offered include antenatal & postnatal clinics, child health clinic with immunization, family planning, pap smears, dressings and nutrition counselling.  In addition home visits are undertaken as well as quarterly school visits including day care centres and nurseries.

The 30-bed Glendon Hospital provides medical, surgical and obstetric care. These services are augmented by the provision of basic laboratory investigations; pharmacy services; routine diagnostic imaging; basic physiotherapy; nutrition/dietetics services; outpatient clinics; accident and emergency services; ambulance services; surgical operations and biomedical maintenance. The GoM are seeking financing to modernise and upgrade the current hospital building to accommodate 38 beds.

Access to tertiary care and/or highly specialized procedures is via overseas referrals through a somewhat fragmented institutional arrangement.  Referrals are made by the Chief Medical Officer (MoH) but paid and organised by the Ministry of Culture Youth and Sports (MoCYS).

Three doctors currently operate private medical practices; two of these are employed by government on a part-time basis in addition to visiting consultants who make infrequent visits.

There are two pharmacies in Montserrat, one government-owned facility situated on the hospital compound and one privately-owned at Brades (towards Cudjoe Head).

Long-term geriatric services are offered through four homes for senior citizens. The New Margetson Memorial and the Hill View homes, located on the hospital compound, cater for high-dependence care (bathing, feeding and toileting), while a warden supported unit at Lookout provides 50 units for the elderly.  One of the emerging issues associated with this accommodation, is the propensity for family members to stay with their elderly relatives, where there is no formal facility.  This is partly a function of the issue associated with “transitioning” – that is, those who need a higher level of personal attention, but are not yet ready to enter into the hospital care homes.

The MoCYS also contributes financially to the Golden Years private care home, which offers its care to the elderly with medium to low dependency levels. In addition, the MoCYS supports a “care in the community” scheme through a number of partner organisations including the Old Peoples Welfare Association (OPWA). Services include meals-on-wheels and cleaning assistance.

Dentistry services are available via a government clinic at St Johns and a private facility also in St Johns.

2.7.2      Education

Nursery Education

There are two public day-care facilities which are situated in St Johns and Lookout and cater for children 1-3 years old. There are also two public nurseries situated in Brades and Lookout catering for children aged 3-4 years and a private facility in Woodlands providing day care and nursery facilities for a similar age group.

Primary Education

The primary education sector consists of two Government-owned and operated primary schools and two assisted private schools. The Brades Government Primary School has a catchment area extending from Salem and its environs to St Johns (including Judy Piece, Davy Hill. Brades, Cudjoe Head, St Peters and part of Drummonds) and had an enrolment in 2010/11 of one hundred and sixty-six students and a staff complement of a non-teaching head and eight teachers. The other Government Primary school is located at Look Out and accommodates students from Davy Hill to Look Out including, Barzey’s area, and the remainder of Drummonds. It has an enrolment of approximately one hundred and seventy five students. As with Brades, the staff comprises one non-teaching head and eight teachers.

The two assisted private schools are the St Augustine (RC) Primary School at Woodlands, which has an enrolment of one hundred and thirty seven students and the small Samuel Community Academy at Brades, which has an enrolment of just twelve students.

Based on average classroom size of between 25 and 30 pupils, the current primary school infrastructure is expected to have adequate capacity to 2022.

Secondary Education

Montserrat Secondary School is located on the boundary of Hazard Zone B off the main A01 Road at Olveston. In 2010/11 the school had a head count of 362 pupils; an average of 70 children in each year group supported by 32 full- and part-time teaching staff. Constructed in 1972, the current school building is operating beyond its design capacity, with classroom overcrowding. The school does not have an assembly/activity activity hall, or a cafeteria, and its perimeter abuts forest of the Centre Hills, creating a porous boundary making it difficult to monitor pupils’ movements outside the classroom.

There are concerns that the current location also presents a risk in the event of evacuation if there is a volcanic emergency. Parents driving to rescue children would be driving into the danger zone blocking traffic escaping northwards.

Tertiary Education

Although options for tertiary education compare favourably with other small island states, opportunities are relatively limited. There are currently two main providers: the Montserrat Community College (MCC) and the University of the West Indies Open Campus (OC). Both of these providers are located adjacent to the Secondary School at Salem in accommodation that was purpose-built following relocation from Plymouth.

The MCC is mandated to provide vocational and technical courses to support labour market needs. This includes courses which had previously been offered by multiple service providers such as nursing, teacher training and police training. It also provides A-level programmes, evening classes and CSEC re-examinations. The small population makes many subjects unviable, while in others people are being trained without jobs to go to. For example in 2010, six nurses graduated from the college, but in 2011 only one nurse was employed.

The current facility has spare capacity. Like other facilities, the key constraints are the lack of people (both teachers and pupils) and financial resources.

The OC provides both distance-learning programmes and local vocational courses. The intake in 2011 was approximately 100 students.  Those enrolled on long distance degree programmes are all currently employed – the majority in Government. These students enjoy heavily-subsidised course fees.  Of the vocational courses, the OC reports significant (and rising) demand for introductory courses in Information Technology and Languages from a highly motivated immigrant population, notably from Spanish speakers.

Although the building occupied by the OC was purpose-built on land provided under long lease by GoM, the institution has outgrown this facility.  The aspiration is to have a purpose built facility in a more central location so that courses can be offered during office working hours (i.e. lunch breaks) as they used to be when the OC was in Plymouth.

2.7.3      Community Centres

The privately financed Montserrat Cultural Centre at Little Bay acts as a multipurpose government and community resource, hosting conferences, concerts and the sitting of the Legislative and Executive Councils. There are currently dedicated local community centres at Lookout and Brades. In other areas, partially suitable buildings serve this purpose, including the unused primary school in Salem, the old school building in St Peter’s and the defence force barracks in Geralds.

There is a general lack of, and pent up demand for, community centres and associated facilities across north Montserrat, especially in Davy Hill, St John’s, Drummonds and Geralds.

2.7.4      Library Facilities

A well patronised and well stocked library is situated at Brades in the BBC complex.  A mobile library provides sporadic services to local schools.

2.7.5      Sports and Recreational Facilities

Although land area is constrained in the north, there has been significant progress in post-crisis facilities.  In terms of physical facilities, there are now areas for cricket at the main Little Bay oval (which is now also the focal point for athletics and some school sports) and the old Salem oval. In addition, basketball facilities exist at the Salem Primary School, Brades Primary School, and the St Augustine Primary School at Woodlands, with a practice half-court and basketball hoop at St Peters. Netball is played at Brades and Lookout and there are tennis courts at Salem and Lookout. A football stadium is located on land that was formerly part of the Blake’s Estate, which is owned and operated by FIFA. The GoM contributes to the Montserrat Football Association (which is affiliated to FIFA) and the site is available to the general public for football and, by agreement, other outdoor events. With the exception of the FIFA stadium, the limited funds available for maintenance are clearly evidenced in the deteriorating concrete courts and fragile nets of the other facilities.

There is a clear need for additional facilities. At Davy Hill residents have erected their own temporary roadside basketball hoop; at Drummonds children play cricket on the street. There is also a distinct undersupply of safe play areas for infants and young children; a playground at the Lookout School is closed at weekends. The shared use of some school facilities by the public has also created some conflict; bottles, litter and contraceptives are often found in the vicinity of sports grounds.

For an island nation, the beach is an important part of everyday life, for recreation and livelihoods. All beaches are owned by Government. The Montserrat Tourist Board provides facilities on a number of these, but the maintenance regime is poor and the condition of showers and changing areas at Little Bay and Woodlands beach are in urgent need of upgrading.

Opportunities for walking and hiking are plentiful. The Tourist Board is responsible for the provision and maintenance of a number of walking trails located in the Centre Hills and Silver Hills. The trails are seen as both an important part of the island’s tourism product and as a local educational and recreational resource.  There are 14 mapped trails and, although they are under management by the Tourist Board, it is the National Trust that assumes practical responsibility for trail maintenance through a subvention paid by the Board.  Most of these trails suffered major damage during Hurricane Earl in 2010, with many trails washed out. T Tourist Board is working with the Trust on a programme of phased rehabilitation.

There are limited formal picnic spots on the island; Woodlands Beach and the Jack Boy Hill visitor facility offer picnic areas with restrooms. A committed local community based organisation has created a picnic area at Runaway Ghaut.

There is a general absence of open space and access to open space.  Many of the trails described above are unsuitable for family recreation and require a minimum level of physical fitness and hiking ability.

Opportunities for indoor and non-sectarian recreational facilities are relatively limited.  The cavernous Montserrat Cultural Centre can be adapted for multiple uses, including cinema; however, it does not capture the needs of many who envy the small “cosy” cinema experience available on nearby islands.

2.7.6      Religious Services

The church is an important part of Montserratian life. In the 2001 census, almost 80% of the population reported affiliation with one of six Christian denominations (Anglican, Methodist, Pentecostal, Roman Catholic, Seventh Day Adventist, or Church of God). There are a number of churches and places of worship on the island, many with a supporting community hall.  These are shown on Figure 2.6 and 2.7

The island’s public cemetery is currently located at Salem. This is nearing capacity and consequently a site has been identified and reserved by GOM for the new public cemetery at Lookout. This will have capacity to 2018 at the present rate of public cemetery burials, but additional space will have to be identified to address the needs of a growing population. In addition, a number of churches have their own cemeteries although many of these are also nearing their full capacity. These are shown on Figures 2.6 and 2.7.


2.7.7      Security and Emergency Services

Police and Fire Services

The central police and fire stations are located adjacent to government headquarters in Brades. These are well established and provide a service for the majority of the north Montserrat. There is an additional fire and police station in Salem which caters for the area south of St. Peters. The fire stations in Brades and Salem also have an ambulance on standby for emergencies. The airport has a dedicated fire station. Additional facilities are required as part of the 3-Bay Concept and will be considered while reviewing the Little Bay master plan.

Prison Service

The prison is currently located at the western end of Brades, below government headquarters and adjacent to the police and fire stations. There are approximately 30 inmates and incarceration rates are stable. The prison may have to be extended depending on future crime rates and the current site offers sufficient space to do this.

2.7.8      Emergency Shelters

There are 20 hurricane shelters located across the northern part of the island, primarily churches and education buildings. A list provided by DMCA indicates that the main shelters can accommodate between 900 and 1,000 people, but few of these “shelters” have actually been subjected to detailed structural surveys. Until their structural integrity has been confirmed these buildings should be considered only suitable for shelter in terms of accommodating post-hurricane or post-volcanic activity. It would not be appropriate to use unproven buildings post-earthquake in case they would be unsafe in the event of aftershocks.


GIS figure 2.6 Social infrastructure – Map 1

GIS figure 2.7 – Social infrastructure – Map 2


2.8     Physical Infrastructure


2.8.1      Objectives of Infrastructure Provision and Management

Government’s Sustainable Development Plan (SDP) for the period 2008-2020 is the overarching document that outlines activities and priorities in the public and private sectors for redevelopment of Montserrat. It provides a coherent policy framework – developed and agreed by Government, the private sector, individuals and organisations – for achieving a vision by 2020 of “a healthy and wholesome Montserrat, founded upon a thriving modern economy with a friendly, vibrant community, in which all our people through enterprise and initiative, can fulfil their hopes in a truly democratic and God-fearing society”. The adequacy of the island’s infrastructure is therefore to be assessed against its suitability in underpinning Government’s attempts to realise the 2020 Vision.

2.8.2      Road Network

The vast majority of the road network is in poor condition, characterised by many years of inadequate maintenance of the pavement and highway drainage. The PWD had already designed a road reinstatement project, which commenced in late 2010 funded by the British Government (DFID). By mid-2011 a significant portion of the non-asphaltic works had been completed, including a new sidewalk between Cudjoe Head and Brades, and improvements to drainage and utility channels. The main A01 has been extensively damaged by poor weather and heavy-axle sandmining trucks. The DFID-funded project includes a conditionality for legislation to protect the roads by way of axle-load controls. Once this is in place the asphaltic works will be completed.

The network as a whole suffered extensive damage due to the flash floods and landslides during Hurricane Earl in August 2010. The intensity of storm waters in the ghauts meant that most ghauts were damaged by flash-floods. PWD recommended, and Government agreed, to develop a strategic approach for addressing the hurricane damage and to mitigate against potential future problems.

Recurrent budget limitations continue to be a major impediment to the provision of planned maintenance. Investments in the road network will not be adequately protected until a preventative maintenance regime is in place. Figure 2.8 shows the road network.

GIS figure 2.8 – road network

2.8.3            Electricity

The power station at Brades replaced a temporary installation in Salem that had been provided after the old station at Plymouth had to be abandoned. The current power station houses five high-speed generators, four of which were procured as used-units. These were designed as emergency standby units or top-up at peak times. Consequently, they operate outside their design capacity and are inefficient and unreliable.

Currently, almost no power is produced from renewable resources, except for limited use of solar panels. Studies had been carried out indicating that wind turbines could provide a suitable source of electricity, but recent progress with geothermal investigations suggest that this will provide a continuous and reliable source of power, adequate to meet all projected needs of Montserrat and enough to make export to Antigua economically viable. Figure 2.9 shows the power network.

2.8.3      Water Supply

The overall supply of raw water from springs surrounding the Centre Hills is more than adequate to meet current demands. There have occasionally been some supply problems, thought to be associated with volcanic ash blocking the aquifer, but these have rectified themselves within a few months.

Water storage capacity in the north of Montserrat needs to be increased to provide a minimum of 3-day’s supply in the case of natural disasters disturbing the quantity or quality of the spring supplies.

MUL has capped two wells in the Belham Valley which can be included in the collection and distribution system in the coming years in response to increased demand. However, current water consumption levels in Montserrat are much higher than elsewhere in the Caribbean, despite the low levels of tourism and associated demand for swimming pools, etc. As tourism increases, water demand management measures will become appropriate in order that the springs and wells continue to meet the needs placed on the system. Figure 2.10 shows the water network and waste water facilities.

2.8.4      Wastewater

Most houses, offices and public buildings in Montserrat use individual septic tanks, with just the two main areas of Davy Hill and Lookout being on communal systems. Sludge from the individual tanks is collected via tanker and taken to sludge ponds near the landfill site at New Windward. These, probably for lack of budget and other resources, are not well managed, including a lack of adequate signage and fencing to keep the public away from the edge of the ponds. They would benefit from being rehabilitated and provision of an area for sludge drying beds

The two communal systems are extended aeration units that occasionally suffer form ingress of storm water leading to overflowing. There is a risk of the overflows reaching adjacent private residential properties. This could be addressed by separating the flows and discharging into a cesspit. MUL has already included this measure in a 5-Year Development Plan that they have recently compiled.

2.8.5      Sea Port Facilities

Since the volcanic activity resulted in the establishment of the Exclusion Zone, Montserrat’s only operational port facilities are located at Little Bay. The current facility comprises a jetty and relatively narrow wharf that links the jetty to the warehousing and the port immigration building.

Until 2005 there was a regular ferry service operating between Little Bay and Antigua. Despite the multiple demands placed on the jetty, including ferry, fishing, cargo and recreational boating, the tourist throughput at the port reached just over 13,000 in 2004, but the ferry service was discontinued in 2005 when the new airport was opened at Gerald’s. A ferry service was re-established in 2010 and a new hybrid (passenger and cargo) ferry is expected to be ordered in 2011 that will reduce travelling times to/from Antigua.

2.8.6      Air Port Facilities

Montserrat used to have substantial airport facilities at Trants, but these were buried under a pyroclastic flow in 2010. The Trants area had already been defined as being at risk from volcanic activity and contained within the “Exclusion Zone”.

The new airport at Gerald’s currently caters to an annual throughput of between 6,000 and 7,000 passengers, although there is a considerable peak period during Christmas and New Year. The airport runway could theoretically accept a maximum of 30 flights per hour, but capacity bottlenecks are related to the inward immigration area where it takes about 5-10 minutes to process each passenger; even with 2 immigration officers the maximum throughput has been about 18 passengers per hour. For six-seater planes this corresponds to just three flights per hour. Digitisation of passport processing would increase the immigration processing capacity.

GIS figure  2.9 – power network and fuel depot

GIS figure  2.10 – water network and waste water facilities

Baggage handling is a further bottleneck, including limited facilities for screening outbound baggage, the need for better trolleys between the plane and terminal, and improved customs procedures for inbound baggage.

The departure lounge can accept about 30 passengers at any one time, which equates to about 5 flights per hour for six-seater aircraft. Screening of outbound passengers does not represent much of a problem, typically taking about a minute per passenger.

With respect to maintenance of the airport facilities, the service level requirements for all airside facilities are statutory. These must be recorded and reported to the airport regulator if/when deficient. Landside service levels are less stringent but it is of course in Montserrat’s best interests to present to its residents, tourists and business travellers an image of good management and safety.

2.8.7      Government Buildings

Government Headquarters is located at Brades, with the exception of MCW which is accommodated in an old rented villa in Woodlands area. In 1997, in response to the need to provide alternative facilities to accommodate government ministries and departments, 12,850 sq. ft. of temporary office space was provided in Brades. The buildings at Brades, classified as ‘temporary’, began to deteriorate less than three years after completion and were subsequently upgraded.

In 2006 a detailed survey of the state and adequacy of GOM office facilities at Government Headquarters and at other locations, revealed that many of the buildings occupied, were grossly inadequate in terms of the effective and efficient functioning of government and the delivery of essential public services. Construction of four new GOM office buildings began in 2010, including a new head office for MCW at Brades. The project comprises the first of two phases to provide GOM ministries with suitable office accommodation.

It is also intended that additional Government offices will be provided in due course in the Little Bay area.

2.8.8      Bulk Fuel Storage Depot

Government owns the land upon which the bulk fuel storage facility is sited at Carr’s Bay. The site has been subject to occasional flooding due either to the flooding of the river over-topping its banks (as it did during Hurricane Earl in 2010) or due to storm surges and wave action resulting in the sea overtopping the main road (which has also led to flooding of properties adjacent to the fuel depot). Fuel storage is a critical item of the island’s infrastructure and needs to be better protected. The optimum solution is to relocate the depot, possibly to the quarry site in Little Bay Ghaut.

2.8.9      Telecommunications

The current speed and reliability of landlines and the Internet is satisfactory for most business and personal uses. However, Government intendeds to proceed with ICT-based businesses as one of its primary economic drivers for which faster fibre-optic lines will need to be laid across the north of the island, as well as the two undersea cables linking Montserrat with Guadeloupe and St Kitts.

The mobile network is also adequate for current use, but if modern business people are to be attracted to the island then 3G and other new technologies will need to be provided as “business essentials” and part of a modern way of life for all residents.

2.8.10    Infrastructure Exposure to Natural Hazards

The Montserrat Volcano Observatory has assessed that the risks to property and life in the north of the island is minimal. The risk exposure to areas in the non-exclusion zone from volcano-related events is estimated to be less than that from hurricanes and earthquakes. It is prudent, however, to make appropriate provision against the possible effects of natural hazards. Building on the lessons from Plymouth, Government will not concentrate its public and emergency services in one place. It would be a huge and expensive task to place all utilities underground where they would be protected from hurricanes, but in any case this would put some services (e.g. water pipes) at greater risk from seismic events. Where appropriate, when upgrading utilities or rehabilitating services following damage, infrastructure will be placed underground. Decisions will be made based on cost-effectiveness and in consultation with the utility companies.

[1][1]  In October 2011 full results of the 2011 Census were not available. This data will be updated when full results are available.


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