Housing, Lands, Works and Urban Renewal Minister Maria Browne said private property owners are breaking the law when they prevent members of the public from accessing beaches near their land.
Browne made the comment when responding to reports that developers at the Pearns Point luxury housing site are imposing restrictions on how and when members of the public can access nearby beaches.
Browne said Section 50 of the Physical Planning Act, 2003 provides that no owner, developer or occupier of land leading to a beach has the authority to prevent any person from accessing and using the beaches of Antigua and Barbuda .
Browne said the Survey and Mapping Department is establishing access boundaries for all seven beaches near Pearns Point with official boundary markings and signage.
During this time, Browne is asking that users of Pearns Point beaches exercise patience and cooperate with property owners when accessing the beaches.
The minister added that the Development Control Authority and the Survey and Mapping Department have prepared a preliminary beach access report that regulates access to and use of all beaches in Antigua and Barbuda.
The full section on public access and right of way to beaches reads as follows:
(1) There is at least one public land access and priority access to every beach in Antigua and Barbuda.
(2) Where there is no alternative public access, traditional public use of a private landward access via an existing private development is sufficient grounds for establishing a public thoroughfare over that access for the purpose of public access to the beach.
(3) Where the only landward access to a beach is through an existing private development where traditional public use has not been established in accordance with subsection (2) of this section, the Crown may obtain the right of public use of that beach access by gift, negotiation, contract, purchase or lease, forced acquisition “in exchange for other property, interest or financial relief, or in such other manner as the Secretary of State may recommend, as a condition of the issuance of any permit or license required under” the provisions of any law .
(4) When land is acquired through expropriation for beach access, the provisions of the Land Acquisition Act shall apply to such acquisition.
(5) Where a proposed development is likely to adversely affect public access to a beach from the landward side, any development permit will require as a condition that the public have free access to the beach through the development at all times.