Privy Council Rules in Favor of Barbuda Residents in Airport Development Challenge

The content originally appeared on: Antigua News Room

The Board is satisfied that the appellants have demonstrated sufficient interest in the environmental issues and the breaches of the 2003 Act raised by the application for the development permit. In particular Mr Mussington’s scientific background, his knowledge of the flora and fauna in the area, his status as a local resident, and his experience of conducting environmental assessments amply demonstrate a sufficient interest in the subject matter of the application for judicial review.

The Privy Council has decided in favor of appellants John Mussington and another, residents of Barbuda, in their challenge against the Development Control Authority (DCA) and others regarding the construction of an airstrip on the island.

The airstrip, which forms the initial phase of an airport development project, has raised concerns about its environmental impact and the appellants’ standing to challenge the development permit.

The Court of Appeal of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court had previously dismissed the appellants’ application for judicial review, citing a lack of standing.

However, the Privy Council’s ruling now recognizes the appellants’ standing, emphasizing their substantial interest in the matter.

The appellants, both Barbudans residing in Codrington village near the proposed airport site, expressed concerns about the environmental impact of the project, including noise pollution and potential damage to aquifers critical for drinking water.

They also highlighted procedural irregularities, such as the commencement of construction without a proper development permit and inadequate public consultation.

The Privy Council underscored the importance of public participation in such decisions, noting that the Physical Planning Act of 2003 requires applications for development permits to be publicized to allow for meaningful representations.

The Court criticized the respondents for failing to disclose the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) at the time of the application, which could have enabled more informed public input.

The ruling sets a precedent for environmental advocacy, affirming that individuals need not be experts in a field to challenge developments that impact their communities.

It also aligns with Antigua and Barbuda’s commitments under the Escazú Agreement, emphasizing the right to public participation in environmental decision-making processes.

This decision marks a significant victory for environmental activism and community engagement in Antigua and Barbuda, reinforcing the importance of transparent and inclusive processes in development projects with potential environmental implications.

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