The way out

Landowners of the disputed area of Payne’s Bay, St James, have committed to building a new pedestrian beach access.

However, Senior Minister and St James Central Member of Parliament Kerrie Symmonds and Minister of the Environment Adrian Forde are asking Barbadians not to take matters into their own hands regarding cases of blocked beach access.

Forde was on the scene at Payne’s Bay last Wednesday afternoon where there was evidence someone had damaged the barrier preventing access to the beach across private land. He was accompanied by Permanent Secretary (PS) Yolande Howard.

“We understand beach access is part of our inherent right and no one under this administration will deny them that, but please do not take the law into your own hands and destroy persons’ properties,” Forde said.

“If there is a concern about any blockage or barrier that is put up, contact the authorities – the National Conservation Commission, Planning Development Department (PDD) or call me at my office or the PS. We are available to investigate these matters on behalf of the people of Barbados,” he added.

Symmonds said while it was wrong for anyone to block access to a beach, it was also wrong to vandalise private property.

“That, too, has to be seen as unacceptable. We have to strike a balance – people have to be given access to the beach . . . but it cannot be that we just break down people’s gates in order to gain that access because nobody is going to want to put up with that . . . regardless of who it is. It is a highly charged emotional issue in this country but we have to find mutually satisfactory ways to deal with it,” he said.

The ministers were referring to a long-standing issue which made headlines again last week when a popular beach access was blocked by the landowners. However, Forde said there was more in the mortar than the pestle.

“Apparently, there was an illegal bar set up on this property. After the owners managed to get the bar removed, the gate which was blocking the property from being abused was broken down and the wall damaged, and another person started a business there.

“The agent of the landowners told me it was never their intention to inhibit persons from using the property for pedestrian beach access. The reason why it was put up was to stop illegal activity,” he said.

Forde said the closest public access was nearby but was badly eroded where the sea came right up to the walkway and exposed tree roots. He added this was due to an illegal groyne built by another developer which was currently the subject of a PDD tribunal decision.

The minister said that, in the meantime, the landowners had committed to building a pedestrian walkway to the beach next to the current path.

“We only ask [that] people respect it is still private property, so do not dump there or get involved in any commercial activity on it,” he added.

The DAILY NATION also spoke to attorney Lalu Hanuman, who said that while he was not familiar with the matter at Payne’s Bay, in general terms there was a legal precedent where private land could become public property.

Nec vi, nec clam, nec precario, which has to do with acquiring an easement over private land if you have been using it for a number of years; in the context of Barbados, ten years. It’s possible people can acquire rights to the land . . . but it would require a court order.

“In places like Cancún in Mexico, you have to travel 20 to 30 miles to get access to the beach because the land is solid with buildings and private property and, sadly, Barbados is becoming that way as well,” he said.

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