The national trade union umbrella organisation has joined a chorus of disapproval over expansion plans by the Blue Horizon for a “creeping invasion” of the famed Rockley beach.
The Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados (CTUSAB) declared that Barbadians were systematically losing their accustomed unfettered access to the beaches.
At a press conference convened at CTUSAB’s Garrison headquarters, president Edwin O’Neal told reporters that his organisation has taken note of a beach takeover trend, even before the controversial Blue Horizon project, which has as part of its proposal, a beach club, across Highway 7 from the hotel.
“All along our coast we are becoming aware of this creeping hand, this creeping invasion, this creeping restriction, to beach access.
A stone’s throw away from us in the Bridgetown area, it has been reported and I have seen where operators are staking out a significant portion of the beach with beach chairs.
“They say it is for their guests, but our observation and our reports are, that is really a cordoning off of the beach, and it is saying to Barbadians that this place is not for you.”
O’Neal argued that the beaches have always been a place where workers can unwind and therefore the union had a vested interest in ensuring that this remains unchanged, as he sought to explain the rationale behind a labour organisation weighing in on a social end of an economic development debate.
He said: “We believe that the workers of Barbados must have unhindered access to the traditional bathing spots. This is so for health reasons, for therapeutic reasons, [and] for holidays.
“Currently there is a shrinking and an over-regulation of access to beach,”
Last week, cultural ambassador Dr Anthony Mighty Gabby Carter, who has championed unrestricted beach access for all Barbadians for decades, beginning with the early 1980s classic, Jack, the unofficial anthem for the public beach cause, threatened to lead a protest against the construction of a ten-storey addition to the hotel.
In a highly animated pledge amid rousing cheers at a jam-packed town hall meeting at Accra Beach Hotel, Gabby warned that the proposed project will be built over his “dead body”.
He declared: “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.”
CTUSAB’s General Secretary Dennis de Peiza called on Government to secure the last remaining windows to the sea and keep them as national preserves, for future generations to enjoy.
He also called for legislation that all future hotels must be built on the land side of coastal roads.
“If we are to ensure that people who live here and who work here have access to the public beaches without any type of reservation, we must ensure that these proposed projects are put on the land side.
“I am also suggesting that Government should move to earmark those windows to the sea that would become part of the reserves of our country,” he said.