Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy has described as “beyond backward” recent criticisms levelled against Government’s planned development of Carlisle Bay, St Michael, in particular the proposed construction of a multi-million dollar luxury hotel there.
However, addressing a political meeting of his ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) in St Michael East on Sunday evening, he suggested that the Freundel Stuart administration was not about to yield to any critics in terms of its tourism ideas.
In fact, Sealy reported that the decision on the 237-room Hyatt, which is to be constructed on almost three acres of waterfront along Carlisle Bay, was at “an advanced stage right now of receiving the final go ahead” from the Prime Minister, who has responsibility for Town & Country Planning.
The planned construction of the resort has not gone down well in some quarters, with the Barbados National Trust and social activist and attorney-at-law David Comissiong both raising objections on environmental grounds.
The Trust fears if the project is allowed to go ahead, Barbados could lose its United Nations World Heritage designation because the hotel is due to be built in the heart of the island’s World Heritage site of Bridgetown and its Historic Garrison.
Comissiong has written the Chief Town Planner demanding that the application be subjected to “a most rigorous and comprehensive” environmental impact and assessment procedure, including a social impact assessment study.
In an August 4, 2016 letter to Cummins, Comissiong also requested that the people of the neighbouring communities be consulted in town hall meetings and that the relevant sociological surveys and assessments be done before permission was granted to the project.
Without referring to any critics by name, Sealy, who has thrown his full backing behind the project, expressed personal disappointment that persons “who market themselves as being very progressive” continued to cry down the plan.
“It is beyond backward for you to say simply because St Michael is our most populous parish that what’s happening in Christ Church, in St Philip, in St James and St Peter to some extent, it can’t happen here,” he said in response to the Hyatt critics, while touting the project as one that would “work wonders” for St Michael communities.
“I do not understand the thinking. The Bay is big enough that you could have hotels and visitors enjoying the beach and locals still doing it. It happens every single day in beaches all over this country.
“As popular as Accra [Beach in Christ Church] is with visitors, you get locals by the hundreds and there are no issues . . . Browne’s Beach [in St Michael] is shared by both locals and visitors and there is nothing wrong with saying we want some development like that so that communities . . . surrounding the Carlisle Bay area can benefit,” he stressed.
And in a further swipe at those who he said have been leading the “anti-tourism view for Carlisle Bay”, Sealy, who is the representative for St Michael South Central, suggested to the small gathering of DLP supporters that there were those who felt “St Michael people do not know how to behave [and therefore] you cannot bring tourists around them.
“I reject that. In fact, I think it is highly offensive and I speak on behalf of St Michael South Central [and the rest of St Michael] when I say, we can handle a tourism industry.
“We want to be a part of it and therefore I support fully what is proposed for Carlisle Bay and I also support an expansion of what exists on the Needham’s Peninsula as well,” he said.
The senior Government official also accused the Opposition Barbados Labour Party of drawing “the line in the sand” on Hyatt even though he did not think it would be made a political issue.
“Truth be told, the [national] Physical Development Plan spoke to Carlisle Bay having potential tourism uses, but they [Opposition] thought about it, we are actually doing it and now apparently it is presenting a challenge,” the Minister of Tourism said.