Barbados’ Ambassador to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), attorney-at-law David Comissiong will have his day in court tomorrow in an appeal case against his employer – the Government – over planning permission to build the controversial Hyatt Centric Resort on Bay Street, in The City.
Comissiong, who was appointed to his new role by Prime Minister Mia Mottley earlier this year following her party’s 30-nil victory in the May 24 general elections, has however made it clear he has no intentions of backing down in his pursuit of a judicial review of the February 2017 decision by former Prime Minister Freundel Stuart to approve the construction of the US$100 million five-storey resort.
Comissiong told Barbados TODAY this morning that the case which he first filed in March 2017 asking the High Court to quash the granting of planning permission by the former Prime Minister, must proceed.
Stuart, in his capacity as Minister responsible for town planning, had given developer Mark Maloney’s company – Visions Development Inc. – permission to construct the multi-million-dollar high-rise hotel resort in the centre of a UNESCO-designated World Heritage site.
But Comissiong, a known social activist has been relentless in his objection to the project going ahead without the developers first conducting an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and holding town hall meetings, which he insists are legally required for a venture of the nature of the Hyatt.
In December 2017, High Court Justice Sonia Richards ruled that Comissiong was entitled to file his case to quash the planning permission.
Both the Government and Visions Development appealed against this ruling in January of the following year.
Comissiong told Barbados TODAY the two parties were supposed to file certain documents so that the appeal could proceed.
He said he subsequently lodged an appeal in the Court of Appeal in January this year, asking that tribunal dismiss the appeal by the Government and Visions Development for breach of the rules and for want of prosecution due to undue delay or failure to move ahead with their case.
“It is this application that comes on before the Court of Appeal tomorrow,” the social activist explained.
Former Prime Minister Stuart had been claiming that Comissiong had no legal standing in the matter and therefore could not challenge his decision to grant Maloney’s company planning permission.
Today, Comissiong said he would be sticking to his guns before the appeal judges. He will be looking to have the case proceed with a view to having the 2016 permission quashed on the ground that it was not processed in a “correct and legal manner” he told Barbados TODAY.
The CARICOM Ambassador also put his employer on notice that there may be a similar legal challenge, if it loses this appeal and having to start from scratch, repeats the error of the previous administration.
“There would have to be a new application [by the developer]. And that new application would have to be processed in the correct and legal manner this time around – failing which, any new permission granted might be subjected to a similar legal challenge,” the attorney warned this Government which remains liable for the decisions of the previous administration.
Meanwhile, the Mottley team, in consultation with Maloney’s company has been pushing ahead with efforts to start construction on the Hyatt, which has been on hold for some three years now because of the court battle.
In fact, Prime Minister Mottley recently made it public that the layout of the resort has been revised and would now cover more land space and comprise additional rooms.
About three months ago, she announced that she had been against the previous plan to build the hotel on two spots in Bridgetown. Instead, Mottley revealed that the US$100 million Hyatt would now be constructed on three lots after Government’s compulsory acquisition of nearby properties.
Noting that it was more beneficial economically to Barbadians to have the 15-storey project on three or four plots, she has said the hotel would now increase from 237 to 350 rooms.