Airport meets most environmental requirements says Black-Layne

Site for Barbuda Airport as seen at start of works in 2018

A group of Barbudans has filed a legal claim against their government to halt construction of an international airport, saying the money should instead be used to restore basic services after Hurricane Irma devastated the island.

The claimants argue there should be a judicial review of the decision to give the green light to the airport, which they say violates the planning act and was not subject to a proper environmental impact review. The government rejects that charge.

They also say the spending cannot be justified when the island does not have a fully functioning hospital, only about a third of residents have reliable electricity, and many still rely on handouts for drinking water.

“How can you justify putting resources into an international airport when the basic services that are required by a community are still not in place?” one of the complainants John Mussington told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by telephone from Barbuda.

Construction work began in September and the total cost will be nearly 16 million dollars according to the website of the local Observer newspaper. It said the government was putting up 4 million dollars with the rest coming from private investors.

The island is part of Antigua and Barbuda, a twin-island nation in the Caribbean, but has traditionally governed its own land. It is the smaller of the two islands, with just 1,600 inhabitants.

The group behind the lawsuit says the environmental impact assessment (EIA) for the airport was inadequate and the government did not follow requirements under its own planning law.

“What was done cannot be considered to be an EIA,” said Mussington, a biologist and principal of Barbuda’s secondary school.

Antigua and Barbuda’s Chief Environmental Officer Diann Black-Layne denied the charge.

“As far as I am aware they met most of the environmental requirements for which they applied,” she said via WhatsApp. “I am not aware of the gaps at this time.”

So far a 7,100-foot (2,150-metre) stretch of land has been bulldozed for the new airport.

The complainants say the land is traditionally used for grazing, farming and hunting and provides habitat for rare plant species such as the white sap tree as well as the red-footed tortoise and Barbudan fallow deer.

Barbuda currently has only a landing strip used for small propeller planes, and that was damaged in the hurricane.

The island is still struggling to recover from Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 storm that struck last September and severely damaged or destroyed nearly half its buildings.

As the Caribbean enters this year’s hurricane season, Barbuda still lacks a primary and secondary school and police station, Mussington said.

The lawsuit was filed on Monday at the Antigua and Barbuda High Court of Justice by the London-based barrister Leslie Thomas.

(Reporting by Gregory Scruggs, Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit

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  1. Is meeting “most of the requirements” what is required now in order to secure approval for a development? So what are the requirements that weren’t met? And who is following up to ensure that the developers comply? Or is it that those requirements are being waived? Surely this requires a more detailed response from the Country’s Chief Environmental Officer…

    • Is this the “Patriot” or someone using her name? I hope not, because she ditched her country/party at a time when needed. Instead opting to take a job offer and adding to the brain drain of this country, while building up another. Perhaps if she had run and beat Max like she said she would, the party would have had another seat in the Lower House.

      • Shouldn’t we be focused on the “job drain” and the more than 400 NCO employees who are currently out of work with no options. Add Lee Wind Paints and TCM closures to that. Economic activity in the Coolidge Industrial Park is dead. So all of the cook shops and people selling juices etc in that area are suffering. Let’s not try to drive and look in the rear view mirror. Keep our eyes on the road!

        • Miss CassandraK what do you want the pm to do hold a gun to the owners of NCO head and tell the stay?? Pump money into Leewards paints then you go off saying he bailing out his comreds. Further what the hell does Leeward paints and NCO have to do with an airport being built in Barbuda?? Gosh man stick to the subject.

          • I was responding to Have Mercy who suggested that Joan Underwood has contributed to the brain drain because she did not run on the UPP ticket. Again my question “where are the jobs?”

      • You cant be vex with her. She was not going to leave sure for unsure. Seeing how badly her party lost she made the right choice.

  2. @- CanssandraK you denying the fact the Joan Underwood took the highroad when her party really needed her citing she got a job offer??? I do belive Have Mercy was refering to her ditching her party for a “job offer”.

  3. Does anyone know Black Layne qualifications to make de isions on matters like this?
    Dirty beaches yes but not much more!

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