Barbuda Shores to Succumb to Real Estate Development Despite Environmental/Social Concerns

The Antigua Observer and Caribarena News have been reporting on proposed US $100 million development for Barbuda’s south-east shore on Gravenor Bay. Stanhope Shepherd International Ltd wants more than 1600 acres of land to construct a five-star restaurant, a five-star hotel, an 18-hole golf course, and two marinas. Last Wednesday, the Barbuda Council adopted a resolution in favor of the project, in the final step before the Cabinet gets to review the agreement.

Marine biologist John Mussington has accused the Barbuda Council of failing to follow the law, and attempting to railroad residents into supporting the project. He noted that the group is seeking a 99-year lease for the land, and estimated that the area has a conservative value of US $3.4 billion. He has also argued that many more details need to be provided to residents and that relevant studies must be done in accordance with the 2007 Barbuda Land Act and the 2003 Physical Planning Act to see whether or not the project is feasible economically and environmentally, and so that the community can make an informed decision. He added, “You would expect that with 1700 acres of real estate which includes historical sites, archaeological sites, wetlands, farming areas which have traditionally been used by Barbudans to make a livelihood, requires that you must do some sort of Environment Impact Assessment.”

Mussington raised dissent about Council Chairman Kelvin Punter’s comments that residents had overwhelmingly supported the projected. Punter’s conclusion was based on the fact 300 people attended the meeting, with only two of the 102 who voted not saying yes for the development, but Mussington points out that 98 or more did not vote. He suggested that “the majority of people decided not to lend legitimacy to a biased and contaminated process and choose not to participate by refusing to vote.” He has also challenged the validity of the vote since standard electoral processes were not being observed, including verifying the eligibility of persons who voted.

Mussington has found an ally in former Senator Linton Thomas, who has taken the councilors to task for not conducting due diligence on the investors Stanhope Shepherd International Limited. Thomas made it clear he is not against the project but maintained that the investors should have been properly investigated before permission was given for the development.

The Barbuda Council on Wednesday adopted a resolution in favour of a proposed multi-million dollar project, in the final step before the Cabinet gets to review the agreement. Punter, one of two Barbuda People’s Movement (BPM) members on the Council to support the project, insists that approval of the project is just the preliminary stage, with an environmental impact study, and a due diligence test of the developers to be completed before the project can begin. In addition, he said there are safeguards in the agreement to project Barbuda’s interests.

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