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A legal battle has erupted in Barbuda over constructing two private villas within a national park. The development has pitted residents and a British non-profit against wealthy foreigners and the Antigua and Barbuda government.
The lawsuit seeks to overturn a construction permit granted by the island’s Development Control Authority, which was approved despite being rejected twice by the national environmental department.
This legal fight comes on the heels of another ongoing case opposing the construction of luxury residences, a golf course, a beach club, and a natural gas storage facility on over 600 acres of protected wetland in Barbuda.
The Global Legal Action Network director, Gearóid Ó Cuinn, stated that “this small island nation is under-resourced and faces an enormous fight against wealthy foreign developers.”
Ó Cuinn and local fisherman and tour guide George Jeffery are calling on the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court in St. Lucia to invalidate the permit awarded to Abercorn Trust Inc. in May 2022. Construction has already begun on the project, which includes two luxury homes of at least 15,000 square feet each, swimming pools, tennis courts, and a helicopter pad.
The site is located on the fringes of Codrington Lagoon National Park, a protected wetland that houses a frigate bird sanctuary, a turtle nesting site, and endangered species such as the upside-down jellyfish, the West Indian whistling duck, and the Barbudan warbler.
According to Sarah O’Malley, a lawyer with the Global Legal Action Network, the site contains a nearly 100-acre security buffer to keep people out of the area, which includes part of the lagoon.
She mentioned that the lagoon is a “crucial ecosystem” that serves as a nursery for marine life and is the main source of food and water for the local population.
The Department of the Environment in Antigua and Barbuda expressed concern that the project would establish a precedent for further developments in the protected area and recommended against its approval.
Abercorn Trust’s environmental impact statements did not expect “major impacts” on the frigate bird colony due to its distance from the site and lack of activity in the lagoon. However, Jeffery rejected the statement, claiming that he had already noticed damage and deterioration caused by construction.
Local media reports suggest that a wealthy British investor named Henry Anderson is behind Abercorn Trust, who initially claimed the project was for British royalty. Anderson has not yet commented on the matter.