Barbuda Council recounts history behind Thursday’s backhoe operations on ‘private’ beach

The Barbuda Council is shedding light on a video that has gone into wide circulation and which shows a backhoe uprooting trees and destroying other property on the land side of a Barbuda beach.

In a press statement, the Council tells the public there is more to the incident, which dates back several months and, perhaps, years, and this was confirmed by Councilman John Mussington.

According to the Council, several letters have been written to the owners of the property concerning  the blocking of the coastal road and  restricting free access to the beach and coastline.  However, all these letters reportedly have been ignored.

It was noted that the property boundary never included the coastal road, since such inclusion is not legal in Antigua and Barbuda.

Further, the Council says, there has been gradual encroachment and curtailment of free access to the beach area for local Barbudans until, eventually, a “private beach” emerged.

Reportedly the Coral Group Beach was a longtime picnic area for Barbudans and visitors alike and was a favourite spot for Prophet Burton and his day-tour guests.

Reports say the situation started to change after the construction of Uncle Roddy’s Restaurant on the north side of the public road, which operated in harmony with the picnic area.

Further reports are that the cottages were subsequently built, and the business owners began to complain about persons driving on the road and the noise from picnicking and beach fetes.

The Council says the cottage owners then dug a trench across the road to prevent passage, forcing the Council  to fill it back in so that visitors could access the beach.

Following the destruction of a number of trees on the beachfront, Mussington says these were replaced by coconut trees (suspected to have been taken from Sandy Ground Plantation), sea grapes, and ornamentals.  A boardwalk was also built, leading from the steps of the cottages to the now private beach.

It was noted that new cottages were constructed last year along the coastal road, and the owners wrote to Council seeking permission to erect temporary barriers due to the construction hazard. This was granted.

However, the councilman says, after  construction was completed, the temporary barriers became permanent, further excluding Barbudans from the area.

He says the Council attempted to correct the situation a few months ago, but the backhoe operator sent on behalf of the Council allegedly was confronted by the business owner with a cutlass.  He also called the Police, forcing the backhoe operator to withdraw, Mussington says.

Reportedly, the owner provided his lawyers with drawings that showed  no road ever existed in that area.

Mussington says the Council is seeking only to have the public road — which existed there for years —  be reopened.