STATEMENT BY THE HONOURABLE MELVIN M. TURNBULL
MINISTER FOR NATURAL RESOURCES AND LABOUR
FOURTH SITTING OF THE FIFTH SESSION
THE FOURTH HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY
9TH MARCH 2023
VIOLATION OF BEACH ACCESS LEGISLATION
Madam Speaker, I am urged today to remind persons and especially property owners territory-wide, that all B.V.I. beaches are public. No B.V.I. resident or their guests should be made to feel that they do not have the right to enjoy any B.V.I. beach. The B.V.I. is a prime tourist destination; of this, we are well aware. Our beaches boast some of the world’s whitest sand and cleanest water and we welcome travellers from near and far to enjoy them both. However, let us be very clear, just as well, that these Virgin Islands are our home.
Madam Speaker, based on reports I have received, both written and verbal, it is evident that some persons still do not understand the law or simply choose not to adhere.
One incidence of this, which was recently reported to me with extensive documentation, is taking place at Little Trunk Bay in Virgin Gorda. I am told that an Estate Manager of Little Trunk Bay Estates has took it upon himself to create his own rules for beach access. It is alleged that he is:
· Attempting to restrict access to the beach;
· Harassing beach users by attempting to police their time spent at the beach;
· Using obscenities toward persons who would confront him or ignore him;
· And erecting illegal signage to restrict parking.
Not only is this behaviour illegal, but it propagates attitudes about ownership, race, and status that we cannot allow. The people of this territory have rights that we must protect. We welcome investment, development and integration, but we do not welcome discrimination.
Madam Speaker, Resolution No. 7 of 1989, of the then Legislative Council, established the principle that beaches hold a special place in the natural patrimony of the Territory and were to be managed to ensure continued traditional access and use.
Thereafter, the legislative instrument established the following fundamental principles:
· All shores and all beaches (whether natural, manmade or on private islands) within the Virgin Islands are vested in the Crown;
· There is always free access from any part of the waters to the shores and beaches; and;
· There should be reasonable access across lands to shores and beaches.
The public is hereby reminded of the legislation guiding Public Access and Rights of Way to Beaches as per the Virgin Islands Physical Planning of 2004, which defines a beach as:
“That area of the coastal zone from the seaward limit of the foreshore, running inland to the vegetation line or other natural barrier, whichever is closer to the landward limit of the foreshore; and a beach may consist of sand, stones, gravel, shingle, coral fragments or boulders”.
Moreover, as it relates to those beaches that may be linked to a private property or resort, the guidelines for access to said beaches are as follows:
Section 61 states that: There shall be at least one public landward access to every beach in the Territory. Where there is no alternative public landward access, traditional public use of a private landward access through an existing private development shall be sufficient grounds for establishing a public way over that access, for the purpose of access to the beach by the public.
Where the only landward access to a beach is through an existing private development where traditional public use pursuant to subsection (2) has not been established, the Crown may acquire the right to public use of that landward access by gift, agreement, compulsory acquisition, or in exchange for other property,
interest, or financial exemption, or by such other means as the Minister may recommend.
For the purposes of this section “traditional public use” means peaceable, open and uninterrupted enjoyment for a period of twenty years or more; and public landward access shall be motorable unless the Minister otherwise determines.
In summary, even if a beach is linked to a private property, access must still be provided for public use. All property owners and managers, who may be engaged in preventing beach access, are asked to cease and desist immediately. The public has the right to occupy the water and the shore of every beach, up to the area of land that is owned privately.
Any person seeking further clarification of this law or seeking support to enforce the law as a beach user, may contact the Ministry of Natural Resources and Labour’s Sea Bed unit for assistance. Thank you Madam Speaker.