By PACO NUNEZ
Tribune News Editor
THE original crusaders for the preservation of Clifton have called on the government to reject any application by Peter Nygard for a grant or lease of Crown land in the area.
Asserting its independence from newly launched groups said to be supporting either Mr Nygard or his rival Louis Bacon, the Coalition to Save Clifton (CSC), which fought successfully to save the area from private development by foreigners between 1998 and 2002, called for the sea park promised by Prime Minister Perry Christie to become a reality.
Coalition president Rev CB Moss, who led the group since its inception, focused particularly on “newly created land” resulting from alterations of the coastline at Simms Point.
He claimed work was undertaken there without permits, and believes Mr Nygard has now applied to officially take ownership of the new land.
“The Coalition has written the prime minister informing him of its very strong opposition to any such approval, and requested a meeting at the earliest opportunity,” Rev Moss said yesterday.
The CSC supported its claims with a signed 2010 letter in which a top Ministry of the Environment official asserted that Simms Point has “expanded significantly” over several years.
The letter rejected an application for a lease for this new land by Mr Nygard’s lawyer, declared that no future applications for construction on the accreted land would be granted and asked Mr Nygard to restore the original coastline.
Yesterday, Rev Moss said the CSC is calling on the government to immediately implement the following:
• Officially reject the application from Mr Peter Nygard for a grant, lease, or any other form of occupancy of the created land
• Have the affected area (land and sea bed) restored to its former state
• Establish the promised sea park
He said: “As Prime Minister Christie is repeatedly on public record saying that his government puts Bahamians first, there is little reason to doubt that he will accede to the Coalition’s request and reject this application – rejection which is clearly in the very best interest of the Bahamian people.
Rev Moss noted that for the past several weeks, there has been a great deal of media coverage concerning the Clifton Heritage National Park and the degradation of the bay surrounding Clifton point, where the park is located.
“The saga of Clifton burst upon the national news scene 14 years ago when a foreign developer proposed to build an upscale gated residential community on the Clifton site, to be called Clifton Cay,” he said.
“As the Clifton land was settled by three separate civilizations – the Lucayans, the Loyalists and the African slaves, the site was considered priceless to Bahamians.”
It was at this point that the CSC was formed for the purpose of fighting any attempt to develop the site.
“Following four years of a very brutal battle the coalition, with the help of a number of persons both local and international, was successful in stopping the proposed development,” Rev Moss said.
It was first proposed by the coalition that Clifton point and the surrounding bay be transformed into a national land and sea park. This recommendation was accepted by the new government and in 2004, the land park was formally established by an Act of Parliament under a statutory body known as the Clifton Heritage Authority.
“While this was a great first step, the fight for Clifton cannot be considered over until the sea park is established,” he said.
Rev Moss said the coalition recently became aware that the viability of the sea park was threatened by several factors, the most urgent being land and marine works being undertaken in the area.
He claimed the work has created a serious environmental and ecological problem around the proposed sea park area.
According to Rev Moss, these facts were revealed by the newly created Coalition to Protect Clifton Bay (CPCB).
Thanking this group for its work, he nevertheless added: “Here let me clearly state that despite the similarity in names, the newly formed organisation has no affiliation with our coalition.”
For its part, the CPCB warned the Prime Minister that it will launch Judicial Review proceedings in the Supreme Court if the government fails to respond by today to its concerns over construction activity at Nygard Cay, its attorney warning: “The rule of law is at stake.”
Fred Smith, QC, the Callenders & Co attorney and partner, said Mr Christie has until 4pm to state what he was doing about construction activity.
Meanwhile, Keod Smith, an early member of the CSC, along with other newly formed groups Re-Negotiate.Org and Saving Clifton, lashed out at board members of the Clifton Heritage Foundation, claiming they are involved in the CPCB.
They also accused the board members of petitioning the government through the CPCB to reject any applications by Mr Nygard, and claimed Louis Bacon is involved in the group.
Representatives of Mr Nygard did not respond to requests for comment before press time last night.
In August 2010, responding to the Ministry of the Environment’s communications, an unsigned letter attributed to Mr Nygard asserted that all structures in the Simms Point/Nygard Cay area “were built exactly where they were placed with a clear understanding by all parties concerned at the time.”
Nevertheless, the letter agreed to remove all structures that encroached on accreted land without approval.
“With regards to the reinstatement of the coastline, I will put forth for your consideration the fact that it would be more environmentally friendly to leave the shoreline as is and let nature take its course. As you can see from the pictures, the beach has naturally shifted over the 20 years from north to south side,” the letter said.