The planned Sandy Ground Marina would completely change the face of the village, the pond, the beach and the entire harbour, as well as the lives of countless people who live in or visit the village daily. It does not appear to have any measurable benefit to Anguilla, environmentally is a complete disaster, and does not even seem to be legally sound.
Impact on residents
The impact on Sandy Ground residents is enormous. I have been trying to visualise what it will be like to have large equipment dredging the pond, probably day and night. The noise and smell alone will be enough to send all the residents somewhere else, but where? The beach is likely to change after the dredging of the entrance channel, and may even disappear. With all the dredging in the pond what will happen to the narrow strip that is Sandy Ground village? Could it possibly survive? So maybe we will have no village and no beach.
There are many legal questions that need to be answered and I call upon the new government to conduct an investigation into the legitimacy of the process and the agreements entered into. The general and financial terms of agreement are extremely questionable as is the formal tendering process.
How is it possible for the government to sell public land and encumber private land without any formal community concurrence? The agreement calls for the government to assist with the purchase of private land, is this to be a forced sale? All Customs duties for the construction and outfitting of the project have been waived – millions of dollars. Further, it was signed after the House of Assembly was dissolved and the rules of office, as per the Governor, were that only documents for day-to-day essentials were to be signed until a new government was installed.
Is it legal for a developer to take over the entire harbour and limit mooring for our pleasure and fishing boats and perhaps control the traditional events that take place there? The sale of land on this scale and the 200-year lease are completely unprecedented in Anguilla.
There are so many environmental questions but one of the first is where the mud from the pond will be deposited after dredging the pond to some 20 feet or more. And additionally, where will the mud and sand from digging the 30-foot-deep entrance channel to the pond be put? It was suggested that this may go halfway to Sandy Island and of course affect the water on the beach, if any beach is left after the dredging.
And how about the birds? The pond is the home for more than 20 species of birds and at the last count there were nearly 1,000 birds seen, many of which are regionally endemic.
Surplus of villas and hotel rooms
Anguilla has a large number of villas, many stay empty and many are currently for sale. Why then would we need 150 more villas and residences in the pond? Even in good seasons our hotels are never overflowing with guests and for part of the year they are half empty. Why then do we need another hotel that along with the villas would completely change the character of Sandy Ground? It seems too that these villas and hotel are going to be built on reclaimed land in the pond – how long will that take to settle enough for building, if at all.
Benefit to Anguilla and Anguillians
How will Anguilla benefit from this development? The modest annual benefit seems very low. There is very little economic viability in the project. It seems to me that the developer will make money from the sale of the villas and condominiums but is there any money to be made for Anguillians from the actual marina that will likely be empty for 6 months of the year when all the mega-yachts go to the Mediterranean? Even when the mega yachts are here they are pretty self-sufficient, so Anguillians are not likely to benefit a great deal. And with their own chef on board not many are going to venture out to our restaurants. Plus, if you were on your yacht would you rather be anchored at Rendezvous or Cove Bay for the night or in Sandy Ground pond with no real view of the sea?
In his address on World Town Planning Day the Minister of Home Affairs Kenneth Hodge gave the following quote which is most appropriate for this development.
In the words of Edward T. McMahon, the renowned advocate on sustainable development: “Growth is inevitable and desirable, but destruction of community character is not. The question is not whether your part of the world is going to change. The question is how.”
Anguilla needs a marina, but not one for mega-yachts and not in Sandy Ground. Let us find a suitable location for a marina that can service the smaller yachts that frequent the island and Anguillians could benefit by offering repair facilities, painting, food service, groceries, mechanical services and more. Please save Sandy Ground from this development and leave it for us all to enjoy.