Residents of St Peter have raised strong concern about beach access, with the multi-million dollar Sandals Beaches hotel due to be constructed at Heywoods within the next two years.
“I welcome development on this side of the island, but . . . when a person goes to the beach and is taking their normal walk on the beach, are we going to meet security guards stopping us from walking on the beach?” asked longstanding St Peter resident Ian Babb.
“I believe that when you spend all of this money developing the beach you guys will say the beach belong to you,” he told Sandals representatives during a town hall meeting at the St Peter Parish Church last night, organized by Member of Parliament Colin Jordan, in collaboration with the hotel group.
Babb, who was among 100 residents who attended last night’s event, also alluded to the constant issue of flooding in parts of St Peter, asking the Sandals officials, including Project Manager John Duffy, Corporate Director Jeremy Jones, Regional Project Manager Terence Des Vignes and Kevin Macintosh-Baird: “What have you done to prevent flooding?”
Another outspoken resident explained that Speightstown was the home of a number of marine operators and wanted to know what provisions were being made to accommodate them.
“My concern is beach access as well as a little harbour for boats. We have a lot of boat owners down here, will there be a places we can operate our boats from, or will they be sealed off? We need to have access for our boat owners and fishermen.”
After hearing a presentation from the Sandals team, Marsha Atherley-Ikechi expressed concern that the hotel’s plans for the area were vague. She was also concerned about access to the Heywoods beach.
“You are not dealing with foolish people. I think you need to go back and dig a little deeper. I think this presentation was extremely superficial. What is going to be the impact on the other beaches located north and south? We need to know what the impact will be going down the beach, which I normally go to.”
In response, Jordan, along with the Sandals officials, gave the assurance that all beaches in Barbados would remain open to the public.
“As a member of the Government I will say beaches in Barbados are public property from the high water mark. That will remain so once this Government remains in office. That is our stated position; one that we will defend aggressively if we have to,” Jordan stressed.
Construction of the Beaches resort is scheduled to begin in January and last about 30 months, with more than 2,000 people expected to find employment on the Heywood, St Peter project.
The planned $800 million resort, is to inject approximately $150 million a year into the ailing Barbados economy.
Owner of the popular Fisherman’s Pub Clement Armstrong told the audience he was generally happy for the investment Sandals had brought to Speightstown.