Barbuda Ocean Club
Barbuda Ocean Club (or PLH – Peace, Love and Happiness, or Discovery Land Company) is not a hotel; it’s intending to be 700 luxury holiday homes starting at US$3m each, along most of the whole of the south coast of Barbuda. Already extensively building with Coco Point’s old lease, according to their brochure there will be a ‘vibrant surf-side village’ here. At the other end – on Palmetto/Beach House hotel’s old lease – they are trying to build a golf course on natural wetland (this never worked for K Club) and have further controversial plans to put a marina in the lagoon, our important (and protected) Ramsar site.They are also planning a sports park, an organic farm and (to offset destroying their natural habitat) heavily promote their Sea Turtle Project and Reef Renewal.
The enormous concrete dwellings being built are completely unsuited to the beach-side environment, with no information available about who the sub-lessee/owners might turn out to be, and which will bring no long-term benefits to Barbudans. Although some of us are employed at the project, there is liitle opportunity for staff development or training and promotion here. Most of their hundreds of workers are contractors, or migrant workers from Antigua and further afield, and there are no Barbudan senior managers. The deal to give away this amount of land to one organisation was agreed with the Government of Antigua who stand to benefit hugely from this investment, and a handful of incompetent-but-compliant Barbudan Councillors at the time who now can’t remember signing the piece of paper. Fortunately some Barbudans are now able to make a good income renting surplus village accommodation to PLH contractors, and more recently, after extensive negotiation and pressure, PLH has finally conceded that it must pay tax here and not in Antigua, and agreed to assist the Council with essential repairs in the village.
But we have to go back to the beginning…before the dust of Hurricane Irma had settled, bulldozers were pushing virgin Barbuda land, destroying wildlife and an ancient well, for an unnecessary, damaging and costly new ‘airport’ for their prospective guests’ private jets. Most Barbudans were not here, they were being refused the right to return to clear up their devastated homes after being evacuated to Antigua. This contentious approach fuelled by the contempt Antiguan Prime Minister Gaston Browne has for the people of Barbuda has brought unwanted division yet again to the people of Antigua and Barbuda, and the owners of Barbuda Ocean Club continue to meet strong opposition and legal action from the Barbudan people.
In their brochure their cynical marketing of an ‘ideal heirloom community where you can extend your legacy for generations to come…’ belongs to Barbudans who have kept it this way for generations, and not to the whims of the super-rich. Increasingly in a world where people are being given back their land-rights because their sustainable way of life is threatened, we think their approach is both ignorant and old-fashioned.They must listen to Barbudans because it should be a privilege to live on Barbuda; not an expensive, hostile and pointless fight, encouraged by a Prime Minister who is losing ground in Antigua and sinking deeper into scandal. In recent elections we have clearly demonstrated that we do not want that kind of politics here.