The controversial Hyatt Centric Resort seems set to face a legal hurdle that would likely delay even further, the start of the US$100 million hotel project.
One day after Prime Minister Freundel Stuart all but guaranteed he would grant permission for construction of the 12-storey property on Lower Bay Street, The City, social activist David Comissiong signalled his intention to carry out his threat to seek a court injunction stopping any work from taking place.
Comissiong has maintained from the very beginning that an environmental impact assessment must be held, to include widespread public input, an issue Stuart did not address when he announced at the luncheon meeting of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) that he “expect to be in a position to give planning permission” for the project within a week “by which time all of the outstanding preconditions would have been satisfied”.
Comissiong told Barbados TODAY the Prime Minister’s decision was premature and possibly illegal and he would decide on a lawsuit by the weekend.
“When I looked at it I came away convinced that there was a legal requirement for an environmental impact assessment, inclusive of a consultation with the public . . . with the people of Barbados. Of course, as a lawyer, if you are going to contemplate filing something in court, you would do your homework; you would go over it, you would go through it in great detail and apply great scrutiny to it,” the project’s most vocal critic explained.
The attorney-at-law contended that the required town hall meetings, notifications and consultations with residents had not taken place, insisting Government had an obligation to the people of Barbados to solicit their views of a project of this nature.
“In 2017, any Town & Country Planning Department or any Minister with responsibility for Town & Country Planning when an application for a major project of this nature is made, has a duty to carry out an environmental impact assessment, and a critical component of any environmental impact assessment that is worth its salt is consultation with the people. That is notification of the people, the holding of town hall meetings . . . and none of this is new to Barbadians. Regularly, where there are applications for major projects in Barbados, town hall meetings are held so that the people can have a say. What is so different with Mr Maloney’s application?” he asked in reference to developer Mark Maloney, who is one of the major players behind the project.
The outspoken Comissiong, who last year successfully sued Government over plans to fingerprint travelling Barbadians, accused the Prime Minister of having “utter contempt” for those living near the site of the planned high rise towers and the thousands of people who use the adjoining Browne’s Beach.
He also said Stuart believed he was living in the Barbados of 100 years ago when ordinary people did not have rights.
“I have said that this decision is wrong. It is politically wrong, it is sociologically wrong, it is procedurally wrong, it is ethically wrong and I believe it is also legally wrong.
“The fact that the Prime Minister would make a decision on a major application of this nature – an application to construct a 15-storey hotel on one of the most prized beaches of the Barbadian people – suggests that the Prime Minister has utter contempt for the ordinary people of Barbados. I say this because the Prime Minister has not consulted with the people of Barbados,” he reiterated.
Comissiong, along with the National Trust, has opposed the project on environmental grounds, with the trust fearing Barbados could lose its UNESCO World Heritage designation.
However, supporters have long contended that it would bring more life to Bridgetown and the surrounding areas and would become a springboard for more projects of its kind.