Legal action taken against Antigua and Barbuda government

Barbuda after the passage of Hurricane Irma in September 2017.

A group of Barbudans have filed an application for judicial review of the Antigua and Barbuda government’s decision to construct an international airport on the island.

The request, filed with the High Court of Justice of Antigua and Barbuda last Friday and served to the defendants this morning, moves for the immediate shut down of the development of the airport on Barbuda.

The Barbudans seek to address failures by their central government to meet critical requirements under the Physical Planning Act 2003 in the development of the airport and failure to follow proper planning procedures where the government has started or permitted construction.

At least 7100ft running west to east in Barbuda have been cleared for the construction of the airport.

These lands were traditionally used by Barbudans for grazing, farming and hunting and were the habitat of the rare red footed tortoise and the feeding grounds for the Barbudan Fallow deer. Rare ancient forest trees, including the white sap tree, have also been cleared.

“As the environmental stewards of their island, Barbudans are meticulous in their protection of their ecologically, historically and archaeologically significant lands,” said Leslie Thomas QC, international human rights barrister at Garden Court Chambers in the UK and lead attorney at Justice Chambers in Antigua, who is representing the Barbudans.

“As a result of the government of Antigua and Barbuda’s complete failure to meet its legal and regulatory obligations, significant damage has already been done to Barbuda this year.”

The applicants are seeking from the court permission to pursue a judicial review against the Development Control Authority (DCA) for “failure as the regulatory body to ensure that the planning legislation is complied with for the good of Antigua and Barbuda.”

They also want a temporary injunction to prevent any further work on the airport until the Antigua and Barbuda Airport Authority and DCA “comply with the statutory obligations under planning laws.”

The legal action reveals that the Department of Environment (DoE) warned the government of environmental risks, yet the DCA and ABAA continued with development.

This is the latest in a series of legal actions being taken by Barbudans against the government of Antigua and Barbuda relating to developments on the island.

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