Not Browne’s Beach!
Hyatt hotel project hit by controversy
Controversy has hit the US$100 million Hyatt Centric Resort scheduled to be constructed at Carlisle Bay, Bay Street, St Michael.
Two days after developers Mark Maloney and James Edgehill signed an agreement with Hyatt’s Senior Vice President Pat McCudden for the construction of the hotel, which is scheduled to begin in two months, Barbados TODAY is being told the project has yet to receive planning permission.
At the same time, social activist David Comissiong is objecting to its construction on a site adjoining Browne’s Beach, considered one of the best beaches in the world.
In a release today, Comissiong predicted a “social disaster” once the hotel was built, with Barbadians losing the free and unfettered use of the beach which they currently enjoy.
“Well, this is the social disaster that I have been trying to warn my fellow Barbadians about over the past four-and-a-half years. All Barbadians know Browne’s Beach. It is reputed to be one of the finest beaches in the world, and, along with Brandon’s Beach, is the beach of choice of the black, working-class people of Barbados,” Comissiong said.
The activist and President of the People’s Empowerment Party recalled protests four years ago against a hotel development at Skeete’s Bay in St Philip, and he suggested that Barbadians should ensure that Browne’s Beach did not become “an enclave for the wealthy” tourists.
“The Peoples Empowerment Party (PEP) wishes to warn the citizens of Barbados that an even more prominent and culturally important beach is in danger of being taken away from native Barbadians and turned into an enclave for wealthy, white North American and European tourists. We refer to none other than Browne’s Beach – the world famous Browne’s Beach,” Comissiong cautioned.
The attorney-at-law added that he was also concerned that the Hyatt project, which will be built in the UNESCO-designated World Heritage site of Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison, would affect the country’s standing with the global agency.
The Barbados National Trust, which said it had been acting as advisor on the project to the Town & Country Planning Department, disclosed this evening that the project had not yet been granted planning approval.
“As far as I am aware, planning approval for this development has yet to be granted. The Barbados National Trust has been acting in an advisory role to Town & Country Planning since last year in respect of the application to develop the Bridgetown site, and this work is on-going,” National Trust President Peter Stevens told Barbados TODAY.
“Our main concern with any proposal in this sensitive area, is how the development may affect the status of our World Heritage site and our ability to development the vitally important heritage niche within our economy,” Stevens added.
He cautioned that these issues were especially critical when the proposed structure was likely to become the most dominating feature on the skyline.
However, the minister with responsibility for heritage matters Stephen Lashley sought to reassure Barbadians that construction of the hotel did not mean they would lose access to Browne’s Beach.
“I don’t know that it will take away Browne’s Beach. I think it will enhance Browne’s Beach. There is no provision that allows developers to block access to beaches of Barbados, so I think there will still be access to Browne’s Beach,” Lashley told Barbados TODAY this evening, adding that hotel properties had to share the beaches with the local population.
The minister also sought to allay fears that constructing the Hyatt in the World Heritage Site would negatively impact its designation, insisting that the rules of the World Heritage designation did not prevent development.
“I expect that in order for the hotel to be constructed, the plans and the designs would have to conform to the plans of the Town Planning Office which would have got comments from the relevant agencies such as the World Heritage Committee,” Lashley said.
The minister was also convinced that the hotel would generate additional revenue for the benefit of Bridgetown.
“For quite a while we have heard from various quarters that persons are moving out of Bridgetown and so on. So I think it is good when we have this type of activity . . . a world brand hotel. And I hope we can have spin-off benefits as well,” Lashley said.
Calls to the mobile phone of developer Mark Maloney went unanswered, but he indicated to Barbados TODAY by text message that he was at a meeting and would return the call later.
Neither the Chief Town Planner Mark Cummins nor his deputy George Browne could be reached for comment.