A campaigner from De Montfort University Leicester is facing an “anxious wait” to hear if an appeal her sister has lodged against land development in Barbuda will be upheld.
Joyce Frank, an administration manager in the university Health and Life Science Faculty, joined her sister Jacklyn as part of a contingent of Leicester residents to support Jacklyn’s appeal against the Antiguan government to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.
Campaigners are challenging the Antiguan Government’s decision to allow the construction of an airport on Barbuda as part of a broader plan to develop the island into a destination for wealthy tourists.
Plans for the construction were made in the wake of the devastating Hurricane Irma, which destroyed many homes, infrastructure and livelihoods on the island.
Ahead of the hurricane, the island’s entire population was evacuated. Barbudans believe this evacuation was an opportunity for the Antiguan Government to advance a land grab, which campaigners claim violates the 2008 Barbuda Land Act.
The Antiguan government denies this and says the land is legally theirs to use as they see fit.
Jacklyn had previously taken the government to court saying that they did not follow their own rules about developments and won, meaning construction of the airport was halted. The Government successfully appealed on the grounds that the campaigners had “no standing” to challenge the development, and resumed construction. The matter is now with the Privy Council, with the Government arguing that the decision is now irrelevant because the airstrip is now built.
Campaigners are concerned that development will further endanger the ecology amid the current climate crisis. Rather than support the regeneration of the island, hundreds of acres of forest and protected wetland have been cleared, with the consent of the Antiguan government, to build a multi-million-dollar private resort with 495 residences, a new airport to serve private jets, an 18-hole golf course, and a natural gas storage facility. Sanctuaries for deer and other hunting and farming areas have been destroyed.
Following the hearing, the Privy Council is now due to make a final decision on whether the Antiguan government unlawfully granted planning permission for the site.
Joyce said she felt the campaigners had put their case across well. She said: “I am extremely proud of my sister for taking on the Antigua and Barbuda government.
“I felt positive our case went really well and felt that the judges got a good sense of what was really happening on Barbuda. We have an anxious eight week wait for their decision. I pray the judges make the right and just decision.”
The campaigners are being represented by lawyers from London law firm Garden Court Chambers and Global Legal Action Network (GLAN). The Privy Council's ruling is expected in eight to 12 weeks.
Posted on Thursday 30th November 2023