There are no private beaches in Barbados.
General Manager of the National Conservation Commission (NCC), Keith Neblett, made this clear today, and emphasised that the Barbadian public still had total access to the beaches across the island.
He made these comments against the backdrop of an ongoing dispute between the management of the Crane Beach Hotel and beach vendors.
Speaking during an interview with the Barbados Government Information Service, Mr. Neblett said: “Under the NCC Act Cap 393, beach is defined as the land adjoining the foreshore of Barbados and extending not beyond 33 meters beyond the landward limit of the foreshore.”
However, he said, from “time to time” beaches got bigger and smaller based on the weather, resulting in changes to the high water mark. The General Manager explained that once the high water mark was established, the NCC Act defined 100 feet from the high water mark as beach.
However, he noted that over the years, some beaches, including the Crane, which was once recognised for being one of the widest beaches in the world, had narrowed, making them smaller. As a result, Mr. Neblett indicated, the NCC was currently in the process of re-establishing what was a public beach.
“We are going to get the Chief Surveyor from the Ministry of Housing and Lands in a week’s time to establish that clear area of what is beach. After that is established, there would be no doubt for any person who wants to use the beach at the Crane or any other beach….as to what the public has access to,” he stated.
He further noted that the NCC’s function was to control, maintain and develop the public parks, public gardens and beaches of Barbados. In doing so, the General Manager explained, the NCC also issued licences to vendors for a range of activities, such as clothing, jewellery, hair braiding, handicraft, water sports, arts and craft, souvenirs, wire craft, beach chair rentals and umbrellas.
“Over the years, the Commission has identified specific areas on the beach where the vendors can ply their trade…. You will find instances where there is clothing and hair braiding, we have had vendors placed directly in front of hotels,” Mr. Neblett said.
He noted that several hotels had also built kiosks at their establishments and at their own expense for the betterment of vendors plying their trade.
Emphasising that the NCC took the granting of licences to beach vendors “very seriously”, the General Manager pointed out that the documents were not transferrable, and that persons desirous of plying their trade on beaches or in parks had to first fill out a form, produce a Police Certificate of Character and references.
In addition, he said, the NCC also conducted its own checks on the proposed venture before a licence is granted. “The NCC has never issued a licence to operate on anybody’s private property,” he stressed.
With regard to the rental of beach chairs, Mr. Neblett stated that the NCC has always allowed businesses and hotels with beach front properties the opportunity to have chairs to complement the services offered to their clients.
However, he stressed those chairs would be for guests and not for rental. Any transactions related to the cost for the use of the chair, he stated, must be done on the hotel’s property. “On the other hand, the licence granted to vendors are issued with the [understanding] that they can rent the chairs,” he said.
There are currently 256 registered vendors across the island, of which 90 are active and operating from 35 locations.