After waiting in limbo for the past five years, developer Paul Doyle has been given the green light by Government to proceed with construction this year of his controversial $200 million Skeete’s Bay Tourism Development Project.
Back in 2012, popular calypsonians Stedson Red Plastic Bag Wiltshire and Mac Fingall had led a public campaign by residents against the proposed St Philip development, charging that it would have a negative impact on their community.
Amid fears that the villa project would also block access by residents to the public beach, the then Minister of Housing and Lands Michael Lashley, who is also the parliamentary representative for the area which is known for its fishing, had given his personal assurance that Skeete’s Bay would remain the property of the Crown.
However, the Town & Country Development Office had given the official go ahead to Doyle, who is the owner of the Crane, to start construction on the 67 luxury units overlooking Culpepper Island and Skeete’s Bay and the businessman could not be happier.
“We expect to get it going in a major way shortly,” an upbeat Doyle told Barbados TODAY this afternoon.
He acknowledged that it has not been smooth sailing from the beginning, but said after a slow start, he was very confident that work on the project would get off the ground soon.
“It will definitely start this year,” he said, adding that the tourism development was expected to generate hundreds of jobs during and after construction.
Today there was no talk by Doyle of his earlier proposal to transform the local fish market into a seafood restaurant, which had drawn the ire of residents.
And when asked if the initial controversy surrounding the project has settled down, Doyle told Barbados TODAY:
“We did get Town Planning permission, and I think the controversy was more . . . when we had our town hall meeting, the professionals who guided us through that process told me that it was the only town hall meeting that they were ever at, where 100 per cent of everybody in attendance spoke in favour of the project.
“I think there were one of two people that spoke out about it and had questions, but I think most of their questions revolved around some misunderstandings about their ability to fish on the pier and [access] our restaurant facility,” he said, adding that the misunderstandings had been cleared up and most residents were satisfied.
Doyle also sought to assure Barbadians that there was no chance of Skeete’s Bay being privatized.
“Something I learned 30 years ago coming, is that beaches . . . . and I fully, fully support it . . . . need to be kept for the public to enjoy forever and nobody has to convince me of that,” the Crane Resort boss said.
Initially, Beach Houses, as the venture is called, featured 63 free standing units spread across a 50 acre hillside, with two, three and four bedroom residences each sitting on approximately 8,900 sq. ft. of land and command breathtaking ocean views.
However, the plans have since been adjusted.
Doyle said his current focus was on designing 67 “very contemporary” units, which he said would operate “in the same business way that Crane does, except the units are not in five storey apartments, they are single-storey villas” overlooking the sea.
The Canadian developer, who had previously welcomed plans by Government to redevelop the Sam Lord’s Castle Hotel into the Wyndham resort, said his luxury villas also aimed to attract upmarket clientele.
He pointed out that each villa will have a 55-foot private pool, and that the units cannot be seen “from anywhere” because they are going to be built into the hill and the landscaping will be “very” green.