Should Government grant permission for the construction of the Blue Horizon hotel as currently proposed, its developers would have to contend with Barbados’ strongest advocate of beach access.
Dr Anthony Mighty Gabby Carter, who has championed unrestricted beach access for all Barbadians for decades and has even written “Jack”, the unofficial anthem for this cause, threatened to lead a protest against the ten-storey hotel’s construction at Worthing, Christ Church.
Speaking at a highly animated and jam-packed town hall meeting at Accra Beach Hotel on Thursday night, Gabby warned that the proposed project will be built over his “dead body”.
“That monstrosity that we saw just now has a lot of things that I could say about it that are not exactly positive… I want to make it clear, nothing at all must be built on that beach and if even Government gives you permission to build, I Gabby will personally go there every day and stop it,” said the popular calypsonian, to rousing applause from persons who also shouted their pledge to join him.
He added, “You will have to run over me to get it done, because I will get lockup, beat up, but I will go and stop it physically and personally. You will not be able to get the work done,”
The cultural ambassador and revered calypsonian contended the windows to the sea across the island were fast closing as a result of development and he was certainly not going to stand by and watch as one of the more popular ones, fall victims to this trend.
“All of the west coast, there are no more windows to the sea. Look at the west coast carefully and see the destruction that occurred. I used to work on that beach so when I speak, I speak with authority. I used to swim on that beach because I loved it,” he said, reminding developers of a line from “Jack” – “the beach belong to we” .
He further pointed out, “They are saying now that is a proposal but when we first came here it seemed as if it was a done deal. It was only after the people started to speak that we heard that it was a proposal. So, I want it to remain a proposal because that proposal is not environmentally-friendly.”
Along with the height of the hotel, Gabby expressed concern about the beach club component of the project, which is to be developed to coincide with the coastal infrastructure at Accra beach such as the south coast boardwalk. Even though the developers promise that this aspect of the project would be tastefully done and would not impede access to the beach, it did little to appease Gabby and the majority of persons in the audience. In fact, the engineers and architects present could not satisfy the property owners and beach users who turned out for the meeting.
During the meeting, engineer Ralph Adams revealed that the hotel is expected to produce 32 thousand gallons of sewage, which is expected to be accommodated at the already problematic south coast sewage treatment plant.
“The wastewater would be connected to the south coast sewage treatment plant. The waste would be pre-treated before it goes into the sewage system and restaurant and bars will be grease trapped and these traps will be maintained regularly,” he said noting that Government has already indicated that it has plans to upgrade the sewage treatment facility.
However, with the memory of raw sewage flowing on the streets of the south coast for close to three years after the treatment facility broke down in 2015, residents were up in arms at the very mention of increasing the burden on the plant.
They demanded that the hotel build its own sewage treatment facility and not place the burden of waste disposal on the taxpayer. On hand to weigh in on the issue was community activist, Adrian Donovan, who was quite vocal during the months when the sewage spills were at its worse.
“What he had in the last three years was beyond a national crisis and the people in the south coast suffered and are still suffering. If this plan has to go ahead then the Town and Country Planning department must give the developers an F [grade] for not having their own sewage system in place,” Donovan said.
Another contributor to the discussion, who referred to herself only as Joy, chided the developers for what she deemed a lack of corporate social responsibility, by failing to factor in the sewage crisis from which the south coast is just recovering.
“Do not as a corporate body expect capital welfarism from our Government. Build a proper sewage plant within your hotel. Go back and re-design it,” she stressed
Also voicing strong objection on the night were the residents of Cot Road, who were represented by their legal advisor Derrick Oderson at the meeting. Oderson revealed that he has submitted formal objections to the project on behalf of his clients.
He argued that the residents, many of whom have lived as part of the community since 1934, are concerned that their view would be destroyed by the height of the structure.
“The group is totally against the proposed height of the structure. The group is proposing a height of five-storeys. In addition, there are some homes that are very close to the property and developers must factor in those residents in the back,” he lamented.
He contended that their residential road is going to be converted into a high-traffic road.
“We need to know what is going to be the direct impact on Cot Road and every person is objecting to the loss of this road to development,” he stressed.
However developers gave the assurance that the hotel would not be much higher than the existing hotels in the area, They also noted that the area has multiple accesses and guaranteed that construction would be done with minimal disruption using the latest construction techniques.