A recent incident involving the owner of a property in the Carlisle Bay area attempting to restrict access to Browne’s Beach has invoked the ire of Minister of the Environment and National Beautification Trevor Prescod, and he is calling on the relevant government agencies to be more vigilant in the sale of beachfront properties.
Speaking during debate in the House of Assembly on the lease of a parcel of land at Maxwell Christ Church to Mahogany Park Inc., Prescod cautioned that “while we may have had a policy in place for a number of years, it should be shaped by the concerns of the people”.
“There are strategic areas of land in Barbados, some of which are in the hands of private owners, especially on the south, west coast and Carlisle Bay area, where people are expressing their concerns on a daily basis about being denied access to the beaches by the landowners. But while we constantly hear these complaints, the so-called investors and private owners still continue to do what they want to do,” he said.
Prescod cited an example of the Crown selling a piece of land at a low price to a private investor, and “within a couple of hours” the investor was trying to sell it at a much higher price.
“I cannot understand how a government agency responsible for land belonging to taxpayers of Barbados would enter into an arrangement to sell land without strong conditions governing the person who bought the land. There must be something wrong in government policy that allows this. With all the different heads at the different levels, Parliament, senior administrative staff in the public service, institutions related to the state, individuals with authority, something must be wrong if someone can easily purchase government land for a small sum and then sell it and make a massive profit from it in a short space of time. We must pause and think about this,” he said.
Prescod then referred to an incident in which the owner of a beachfront property on Bay Street tried to block public access, first by planting trees on the beach and then by erecting a fence on the roadside.
“What would make a man plant trees after midnight with artificial light from a battery, carrying huge trucks down to Browne’s Beach at night? Don’t you think people will question this action? There are no rangers around, and by morning break there are 26 trees over 20 feet tall on the beach. I took up my phone and called the owner, and told him in a cordial way I wanted the trees moved, and he came back the night, moved the trees and put them inland.
“However, after we tried to resolve the problems on the beach, they moved inland to the Bay Street border and put up a fence, blocking out Barbadians and taxi drivers. I am waiting to see if the Prime Minister can give the assurance to the public that that land will be reserved for the access of Barbadians, but because a man has a few dollars he can ignore the request of the Government. I am not going to let this rest!”
Prescod opined that the interests of ordinary Barbadians would be better served if Government entered into lease arrangements with potential investors in beachfront properties, and maintain a portion of the land in question so Barbadians could maintain access to the beaches.
“I am not advocating for any legislation that takes away property, but we must have strategic areas across Barbados owned by the state, giving no authority to any government agency to sell it. If we sell any land, we should give no one absolute possession of it but instead do a long-term lease. Once they invest in the land, they can do what they want with it, but not act as though they can debar ordinary people from having access only for social and cultural purposes. It makes the Government look silly and simple if a specific type of person can continue to do that,” he said.