An application to remove some 180,000 square feet of sea grass to create a swimming beach for cruise ship tourists off Barkers peninsula received more than 100 written objections from members of the public, according to the Department of Environment.
A total of 117 people wrote to object to the coastal works application brought by Adventures in Taste, the company of Handel Whittaker, who owns the Calico Jack’s beach bar and who hopes to move the venue to create a Rum Point-style attraction in Barkers.
The proposal is linked to a 21-acre parcel of beachfront land owned by the Dart group, which is supporting his application.
The application process involves a public consultation phase, which has now been completed.
According to Tim Austin, deputy director of the Department of Environment, the department has been notified of 117 written objections from members of the public to the plans. He said a hand-signed petition with 365 names and an online petition with 2,678 names were also submitted.
The Department of Environment is required to factor in those objections in its report to the Ministry on the application.
Under delegated authority from the National Conservation Council, the DoE’s technical review team is tasked with producing a report on the environmental considerations and technical feasibility of any coastal works application.
The ministry then presents a report to Cabinet, which has ultimate decision-making authority on such applications. It is legally required to consider the conservation council’s advice, but not necessarily to follow it.
Mr. Austin said the DoE had filed its report with the ministry, though he could not reveal details at this stage.
He acknowledged that the number of public responses was unprecedented for a coastal works application, which typically attract no more than a handful of letters or comments.
The application requests approval for the “removal of sea grass to facilitate swim beaches” over an area equivalent in size to around three football pitches and stretching across a 1,300 foot parcel of beach. It also includes plans for a T-shaped pier stretching 300 feet into the ocean, with a 120-foot dock for tour boats and visiting pleasure craft.
Mr. Whittaker told the Compass in November that he believes the venue can be a “great facility for cruise ship passengers, tourists and locals,” that will bring business and opportunity to West Bay.
Dart Real Estate, which owns much of the land on Barkers, had indicated its support for the application. The company said in a statement that “thoughtful public beach amenity projects can co-exist in proximity to the area earmarked for the proposed Barkers National Park.”
The development site earmarked for Calico Jack’s is just outside the proposed boundaries of the national park.
The application to remove sea grass, and the wider plan, attracted widespread public criticisms over the past few months. Concerns highlighted have included the removal of marine habitat in a Replenishment Zone, questions over the feasibility of creating a swimming beach on that coastline and general concerns that Barkers should remain untouched by commercial development.