There are no private beaches in Barbados.
General Manager of the National Conservation Commission (NCC) Keith Neblett has sought to make this clear, while emphasizing that Barbadians still have total access to the beaches across the island.
His comments come against the backdrop of an ongoing dispute between Crane Beach Hotel and beach vendors, which prompted Cultural Ambassador Anthony Gabby Carter to lead a group of protesters outside the St Philip resort last Saturday.
Leading the protesters with his famous song, Jack, in which he prophetically warns that “that beach is mine”, the ambassador further cautioned the owner of Crane Resort Paul Doyle that Barbadians would not stand for “the complete disrespect” that the hotelier had shown after he evicted two vendors earlier this month.
“This is not just about this beach, this is about protecting what is Barbadian heritage, what is ours and I want to send this message to Doyle, he is a little Canadian boy in my book,” Gabby said.
“He disrespected not only me, but he disrespected this country because look what he did to our vendors. He locked up the stuff they had to work with. What arrogance is that? If we went and took his stuff away, what would he say? . . . He wouldn’t like it and the police would tell us we can’t do it,” Gabby added, while arguing that the National Conservation Commission Act needed to be reviewed.
Similar concerns were also recently expressed in relation to the operations of the international luxury chain Sandals with Chairman of the Barbados Marine Trust (BMT) Lalu Hanuman telling Barbados TODAY he was still not comfortable that the access issue had been settled.
“We have to be vigilant to protect the beaches, because private enterprise is trying constantly to take away the rights of the public to use the beaches,” he warned, adding that “what concerns me is that they [Sandals] put their tables right down to the water’s edge.
“It is a public beach so it is impeding other people’s use of the beach,” the BMT spokesman stressed.
However, in a clear-the-air interview with the Barbados Government Information Service, Neblett pointed out that “Under the NCC Act Cap 393, beach is defined as the land adjoining the foreshore of Barbados and extending not 33 metres beyond the landward limit of the foreshore.”
He also pointed out that from “time to time” beaches got bigger and smaller based on the weather, resulting in changes to the high water mark.
The NCC General Manager explained that once the high water mark was established, the NCC Act defined 100 feet from the high water mark as beach.
However, he noted that over the years, some beaches, including the Crane, which was once recognized for being one of the widest beaches in the world, had narrowed.
As a result, Neblett indicated, the NCC was currently in the process of re-establishing what was a public beach.
“We are going to get the chief surveyor from the Ministry of Housing and Lands in a week’s time to establish that clear area of what is beach. After that is established, there would be no doubt for any person who wants to use the beach at the Crane or any other beach . . . . as to what the public has access to,” he stated.
He further noted that the NCC’s function was to control, maintain and develop the public parks, public gardens and beaches of Barbados. In doing so, the general manager explained, the NCC also issued licences to vendors for a range of activities, such as selling clothing and jewellery and arts and craft, and offering hair braiding, water sports, beach chair and umbrella rentals.
“Over the years, the Commission has identified specific areas on the beach where the vendors can ply their trade . . . . You will find instances where there is clothing and hair braiding, we have had vendors placed directly in front of hotels,” Neblett said.
He noted that several hotels had also built kiosks at their establishments and at their own expense for the betterment of vendors plying their trade.
Emphasizing that the NCC took the granting of licences to beach vendors “very seriously”, the general manager pointed out that the documents were not transferrable, and that persons desirous of plying their trade on beaches or in parks had to first fill out a form, produce a police certificate of character and references. In addition, he said, the NCC also conducted its own checks on the proposed venture before a licence was granted.
“The NCC has never issued a licence to operate on anybody’s private property,” he stressed.
With regard to the rental of beach chairs, Neblett said that the NCC had always allowed businesses and hotels with beachfront properties the opportunity to have chairs to complement the services offered to their clients.
However, he stressed those chairs would be for guests and not for rental. Any transactions related to the cost for the use of the chair, he stated, must be done on the hotel’s property.
“On the other hand, the licence granted to vendors are issued with the [understanding] that they can rent the chairs,” he said.
There are currently 256 registered vendors across the island, of which 90 are active and operating from 35