Does public space in Barbados belong to a select few?
This is the question that entrepreneur Shawn Morris needs answered as his three-week-old beach chair rental business at Bathsheba, St Joseph, is threatened with closure by the National Conservation Commission (NCC).
This morning Morris told Barbados TODAY that despite giving him a licence to operate in the first place, the NCC has given him until Saturday to remove several integral structures of his business.
“There is a little PVC booth there that I didn’t dig any foundation for. I just put some soft stones on the ground and levelled the ground with some mortar. The booth is made light enough to be moved if the waves come in. Also, when you are coming onto the beach there is a steep hill, so I built steps using sea rocks and wood. This morning the NCC called me and told me that I have to move by Saturday or they will come and remove the things themselves,” he said, revealing that he has sunk close to $15,000 in the business.
The businessman explained that the 6×6 hut was vital for storage and shelter while the steps provided access, noting that without them it was pointless being open for business.
However, Morris is claiming that the pressure to move his fledgling business first began when some frequent beach users deemed the project a detractor from the natural aesthetics of the beach, which has become famous for its surfing.
“To be honest with you I don’t even like to discuss race because I believe that we are all Bajans and we should be living in unity. But I think that there is a bit of racism in this because there is a white guy right now at Batt’s Rock that is doing a lot more than me and nobody is complaining for him,” he said noting a photo of his business recently appeared on the Barbados Photographic Society’s Facebook page and the image drew quite a bit of negative comments. Barbados TODAY visited the page and saw the comments in opposition to the business.
Morris explained that when he first began setting up the business the area was filled with rotting sargassum seaweed and debris. In addition, the coconut trees on the beach were unsightly due to a lack of care over the years.
“I would have invested about $15,000 into the business after I received permission from the NCC to operate there. When I went on to the spot it was full of debris and overgrown coconut trees, which had dry coconuts that could fall on people’s heads at any time. I got somebody to cut the limbs and remove all the old coconuts. It took about nine truckloads to move all the stuff away,” lamented an emotional Morris, who claimed that three Government Ministers visited the spot recently and applauded his efforts.
This account was supported by public relations officer of the St Joseph Independence Parish Committee, Victor Morris, who was equally baffled by the opposition to the project.
“I have been living in this parish for 69 years and I was very happy to see things starting to happen here. Two Friday’s ago, I saw three Ministers visit the area. One was Minister of Culture John King, Minister of the Environment Trevor Prescod and Minister of Foreign Affairs Jerome Walcott. While they were here, I complimented the youngster on how beautiful he had the place. All the moss is gone, so I was shocked this morning when I heard that the poor chap has until this weekend to move. It is unfair because this is the type of business we need,” he said.
Barbados TODAY made several attempts to reach NCC General Manager, Keith Nebblett for comment but was unsuccessful
However, this morning Morris said he felt as though the fates had conspired against him as he was recently forced out of the boating business after one vessel was destroyed in an accident and another by fire.
“To come here now and be feeling this kind of pressure just feels like I can’t get away from the stress. It is really stressful for me because for the past couple of nights I couldn’t even sleep because I don’t understand what I did wrong. I have not done anything to anyone, I just came and clean the area and try to make a living and to receive so much pressure is really unbearable,” he stressed. [email protected]