By Carlena Knight
As the Barbuda Council continues in its quest to take legal action against the central government and other parties over the Cedar Tree Point development, Council Chairman Mackenzie Frank says the interests of the people are at the core of its efforts.
In an exclusive interview with Observer on Tuesday, Frank gave an update on the battle against the creation of two large luxury homes on the fringes of Barbuda’s world-famous bird sanctuary.
“We are working very closely with our lawyers in Antigua. We have made various inquiries in terms of the potential damages that could have been done, or will be done, to the site should the project go ahead.
“We have submitted a report regarding the very serious threats that the Cedar Tree Point development is likely to have. We have also prepared all the necessary legal documents and we are on the verge of filing these things in the court,” Frank explained.
He also responded to critics who have accused the Council and other high-ranking officials on the sister isle of purposefully trying to undermine Barbuda’s upward mobility as this is not the first time legal action has been taken against developments there.
Such comments, Frank said, are nonsensical.
“Because we have certain critiques of the types of things that are required in some development doesn’t mean we are against it, but we have to protect the long-term interests of the people of Barbuda, and so, if we feel, for example, that a project is likely to threaten the marine life out in the lagoon or in the Caribbean Sea or Atlantic Ocean we have to raise those concerns.
“Not because you raise those concerns means you are against the project; all you are looking for is what’s best for the investment and for the people of the island, and when the livelihoods of the people on the island may be threatened by the development, then we have to stand against it,” he added.
Frank continued that he was confident of success in this fight.
“Just based upon the facts and based upon the law, we believe we have a very good chance because there are certain authorities that the Barbuda Council has been given by Section 1.23 of the Constitution which entrenches the Barbuda Local Government Act.
“We believe those things, those requirements in the law have been broken, so we are confident that we are going to get some sort of relief from the courts,” Frank said.
The proposed development in the north-west of the island was previously tipped to span almost 114 acres, with 98 of them comprising a so-called ‘security buffer’ which would place the area off limits to Barbudans.
The first home is said to be a sprawling 15,000 square feet edifice consisting of several small wood-frame structures. The second is even larger at 16,000 square feet.
Late last month, Frank revealed to Observer that the Council plans to go to the courts to try to stop the project which they say encroaches on land protected under the Ramsar Convention.
Ramsar sites are wetlands of international importance that have been designated under the criteria of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands for containing representative, rare or unique wetland types or for their importance in conserving biological diversity.
The environmental impact assessment (EIA) carried out by the Department of Environment noted that Cedar Tree Point is part of the Codrington Lagoon National Park where “development is not encouraged.”
The EIA, despite not endorsing such development in the lagoon, stated the plans did not involve the alteration of the coastal lagoon where Barbuda’s frigate birds nest.
It went on to say that there would be minimal impact on the bird sanctuary, but recommended the colony be monitored to ensure that.
But, according to Frank, Barbudans do not want to see a similar situation to the Lighthouse Bay development which, after being destroyed by several hurricanes, has seriously compromised the Codrington Lagoon National Park by causing a mile-long opening.