The Government of Saint Lucia has noted the public discussion surrounding the announcement of the proposed commencement of the Freedom Bay Development in the area around the former Malgretoute Home in Soufriere, sometime in the second quarter of 2013.
The Government has noted, in particular, the comments made by the former Press Secretary to Prime Minister Stephenson King, Darnley Labourne, soliciting the support of the National Trust and the public at large, to mount an opposition campaign against the project.
In discussing some of the matters surrounding the Freedom Bay Development, it is necessary to take a walk down memory lane. This project has had a very long gestation. It was first announced in 2006. The former SLP administration entered into an agreement with the developers but when it lost the General Elections of 2006, the UWP administration promptly repudiated the agreement and entered into a new agreement with the developers.
The UWP Government went further and proceeded to acquire lands owned by private persons in the vicinity of the Malgretoute Home, on behalf of the developers who, in turn, paid the private owners through the Government of Saint Lucia. These acquisitions were all “gazetted” in accordance with the law. It is therefore astounding that Darnley Labourne would now emerge from the shadows and play on the fears of Saint Lucians when he was at the nerve centre of a government that actively promoted the development. Indeed, the UWP administration tried hard to commence this project prior to the General Elections of November 28, 2011.
The Government of Saint Lucia is excited, that after a dry spell of five years, investors are once again, gaining the confidence to start major developments. Saint Lucia is beginning to renew its reputation for being an easy and honest place to do business. Hence, the demonstration of commitment to get the project started, through the launch held recently.
The debate demonstrates that more needs to be done to educate Saint Lucians on the history and purpose of the Piton Management Area (PMA). The Integrated Development Plan (IDP) for the PMA, also known as the Hyder Report, identifies several Policy Areas that divide the entire PMA into zones, and indicates the areas where various types of developments may be permitted, as well as areas where there should be absolutely no developments.
The IDP was accepted by the World Heritage Committee. The Freedom Bay development falls within Policy Area 4. Policy Area 4 has been identified in the IDP as an area where developments, including touristic developments, are permitted. Thus, this development, which is expected to provide much needed jobs for Saint Lucians as well as boost our Tourism Product poses no threat to the World Heritage Status of the PMA.
The Government of Saint Lucia, through the Ministry of Sustainable Development, Science and Technology, continues to dialogue with the developers and has stated in no uncertain terms, that the development must be in keeping with the guidelines of the PMA Integrated Development Plan. Government remains committed to ensuring that the Outstanding Universal Value of the PMA is protected, even as we seek to create new opportunities for our citizens.