By Elesha George
The government is taking a “muscular” approach to how it will go about developing land on Barbuda.
On Thursday, Cabinet spokesman and Information Minister, Melford Nicholas announced that the government would be updating a 2006 land use development plan that will occupy 1,000 acres of land on Barbuda by year’s end.
“We would expect within the coming weeks, and certainly the Christmas holidays are fast approaching, so if we are not able to achieve that before the end of this year, we will certainly expect to have active engagement with the council members about the development plans for Barbuda,” he shared.
The plan was designed by architect Chad Knight Alexander, and maps out how lands on the sister isle can be best utilised. It involves the use of the high lands in the Louisville area, which the minister said, stand 15 feet above sea level.
“We cannot build on the old paradigm,” he said, explaining that there is a long-term risk from investing in low lying areas like Codrington, which is exposed by the lagoon breach caused by Hurricane Irma in 2017.
The plan will map out areas for industry use and public service development as well as residential areas which will be offered on a freehold basis to Barbudans.
“There are some 1,000 acres of land in that area. The first demarcation is about 250 acres that includes the school district where the secondary school is now located, and adjacent to which we intend to locate the new primary school that has been promised to be erected by the goodwill of the people of the Dominican Republic.”
“The Prince’s Foundation is contemplating building a new housing development in that particular area. I think we have recently given the approval for that particular project to go ahead as well as the fact that we have asked one of the Chinese firms here to assist in building some low-income housing as well,” Nicholas explained.
Part of the development plan will include improving the landing facilities at River Wharf. The government wants to create a seaward port of entry by building a pier 1,000 feet into the water that will allow smaller cruise ships to dock.
The cost of the wharf upgrade ranges from US$15 million to US$20 million and is expected to begin in the coming year (2021). The Ministry of Public Works, Nicholas said, has already been asked to review those plans.
However, the actualisation of such a plan would require the acquisition of 300 acres of surrounding land.
According to the minister, “Mr Alexander had indicated that should that become a reality, then there’s approximately 300 acres around the River Dock area that would have to be vacated to facilitate commercial activity, [and] the expansion of the port facilities”.
He said the government is taking a muscular approach to ensure that Barbuda contributes to the economy of the twin island state, reminding that “the land belongs to the state”.
Even while faced with a pending land battle at the final court of appeal, Nicholas stressed that Barbuda is Crown land and that the government is moving forward with its plans for development on the 62-square-mile island.
He called for an early consultation with people on Barbuda, while noting that the “legal fiction” that the Codringtons gave the lands to Barbudans to hold in common has restricted the development of Barbuda for too long.
Nicholas added that the government will ensure that everyone on the sister island, particularly members of the Barbuda Council, are aware of the reason why the government is proposing the development, how it will be funded and the economic benefits of the plan for Barbuda.