By Gemma Handy
Developers behind the controversial Peace, Love and Happiness project that Barbudans claim is destroying the once pristine environment at Palmetto Point have been ordered to halt work.
The High Court yesterday granted an interim injunction forcing most work at the sprawling site to be stalled until the court reconvenes again on October 13.
The luxury resort scheme is set to feature hundreds of homes and a golf course.
Thursday’s edict is something of a victory for the Barbuda Council, which applied to the court for the action in July, along with environmentalists who have long lamented the impact the project is having on the ecologically sensitive area.
Barbuda’s MP Trevor Walker told Observer he was pleased by yesterday’s decision.
“We have been saying for a long time that this needs to happen. We have been out there protesting and seeking expert advice about the damage to the environment. We have written to PLH asking them to stop and we have also asked them to come to the table to negotiate with us, which they still have not taken us up on,” he said.
“We have had three reports done, all of which say the development is not consistent with the area and that the ecosystem just can’t take it,” Walker explained.
The development infringes on wetlands deemed to be of international importance under the RAMSAR Convention. Opponents also say it places endemic and critically endangered wildlife at risk, as well as encroaching on one of the world’s largest nesting sites for the magnificent frigatebird, the national bird.
In August, Chief Environmental Officer Diann Black-Layne wrote to the Development Control Authority (DCA) recommending a stop order be issued on the multi-million dollar project.
In a subsequent letter dated August 31, the DCA gave developers five business days to take steps to correct a string of violations, including damaging age-old sand dunes which help buffer the island against storm surges, and destroying palmetto vegetation.
Last night, a PLH spokesman told Observer that the legal action had in fact been initiated by the company to force an end to sand mining by the Barbuda Council.
“The Barbuda Council is the defendant in this case. The initial action was started to stop sand mining in the PLH area. That has succeeded and there’s an action in place to stop any more sand mining,” he said.
The Council, he charged, had launched a counter claim based on environmental concerns.
“As a result, the court has granted PLH time to come back and present the update on the mitigated areas as raised by the relevant authorities,” he said.
The spokesman added that while construction had been temporarily stopped, remedial work to the landscape including wetland reconstruction and sand dune restoration would continue.
Walker said, however, the area being mined for sand was a mile away from the development.
“The company says it has leased that entire area – we say the area being mined is outside their boundaries. The court must decide where the boundaries are,” he added.
The PLH project has been steeped in controversy from the outset, pitting environmentalists against some residents who believe it will deliver crucial jobs and an economic shot in the arm to the 62 square mile isle.