By Theresa Goodwin
Developers behind Barbuda’s controversial Peace, Love and Happiness project (PLH) have been given a deadline to correct a string of “violations”, shortly after environment officials requested work be immediately halted due to non-compliance with the conditions of approval.
The company has five days following the receipt of a letter dated August 31 from the Development Control Authority (DCA) to submit a remediation plan and take action as it relates to the multi-million dollar project at Palmetto Point.
Chief Town and Country Planner Frederick Southwell penned the letter with a set of instructions to project president, Justin Wilshaw, after receiving a missive from the Department of Environment (DOE) recommending that a stop order be issued.
In the communique to the DCA, Chief Environmental Officer Diann Black-Layne claimed that PLH had reversed wetland mitigation actions and damaged palmetto vegetation, along with historic sand dunes which help protect the island against storm surges.
Black-Layne also said that work conducted on the project since July 16 was not subject to “any environmental and scientific review, guidance or monitoring”. Developers, she said, were in “direct violation of the conditions of approval”, including guidelines relating to the area’s RAMSAR designation which means its wetlands are of international importance.
Despite making the request for the stop order, the department asked the developers to take immediate steps to rectify the violations and bring the project back into compliance.
The DCA’s letter demands developers immediately restore wetland mitigation areas, historic dunes and palmettos.
The DCA and DOE will commence weekly site visits and and PLH must submit monthly environmental management and monitoring plans before the 15th of each month.
“Please be guided that failure to institute immediate actions will merit an enforcement notice to cease and desist all activities,” the DCA letter added.
In a statement sent to Observer, PLH admitted that “human error” had seen two separate areas of the project impacted by “earth moving”.
“The areas impacted represent less than one percent of the development area, and included a mitigation wetland constructed by PLH Barbuda as well as a dune. No natural wetlands were impacted,” it said.
“PLH is committed to the highest standard of environmental care. We regret the human error that led to these events but we are grateful that the process we developed with our scientists and government agencies worked and we were promptly made aware of the problem. We have taken immediate action for the environment and to improve our processes on the ground,” it added.
Yesterday, Information Minister Melford Nicholas told a press briefing that the government would be mandating a permanent presence at all major development sites in the country to ensure compliance.
“There seems to be a gap in the way we manage them from a monitoring standpoint and going forward the Cabinet has asked the minister responsible for the environment that there is a full-time person allocated to the monitoring and management of the project in Barbuda,” Nicholas added.