By Carl Joseph
The Barbuda Council has made a formal request for an order to halt construction work being done by the Peace Love and Happiness (PLH) company, which trades as the Barbuda Ocean Club.
The request specifically refers to halting construction taking place in the Ramsar designated site, Palmetto Point, as well as the area at Coco Point.
On Thursday, the Council made the request, in writing, to the Chief Town and Country Planner at the Development Control Authority (DCA), Frederick Southwell, citing a “breach of Physical Planning Act 2003 and the Environmental Management and Protection Act (2019) (EMPA)”.
The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat is an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands.
Speaking on OBSERVER AM on Thursday, Barbuda Council Chair, Calsey Beazer-Joseph, explained that this stance taken by the Council came as a result of concerns by Barbuda residents who attended a town hall meeting on the matter over a week ago.
“The Council has made a decision to issue a stop order until a review can be done and we’re hoping that all issues can be resolved to the satisfaction of all concerned,” she said.
In an eight-page letter from the Barbuda Council to the DCA dated February 17, 2020, which was leaked to OBSERVER media, the Council cited a “breach of the government agencies’ directives – removal of mangroves, non-observance of setbacks, damage to habitats of protected flora and fauna” as chief among the reasons for the stop order to be issued.
The letter also stated that there was no Disaster Management Plan for the PLH development which, they assert, will increase the population by “approximately 50 percent in 20 years”.
The letter also took note of the fact that Chief Environment Officer, Diann Black-Layne, noticed “something that was wrong” upon her visit to the site, but that she refused to “share that [violation] with those in attendance” at the town hall meeting.
The letter consequently made the call for the director of the Department of Environment (DoE) to “write a notice of violation where a person has committed an offence under this Act”.
Black-Layne has, however, subsequently asserted that the developers have been following specific recommendations relating to the project that had been made by the department.
Given the Barbuda People’s Movement (BPM)-controlled Council’s strained relationship with the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party administration, the Council has been labelled as obstructionists by Prime Minister Gaston Browne and members of his Cabinet.
Beazer-Joseph addressed claims that this request was yet another obstructionist tactic by the BPM Council, saying, “It’s not a case where we’re going to stop [the project] and then nothing happens after.
“The plan is to actually invite all parties – which would include the environmental experts – into a council meeting to see how we may best move forward with the project in the most positive way.”