Gov’t cracking down on unauthorised beach activities
The Ministry of Natural Resources is warning the public that it will be cracking down on the practice of unauthorised events and activities being held on the territory’s beaches.
Natural Resources Minister Melvin ‘Mitch’ Turnbull said in a statement in the House of Assembly on Wednesday that many persons and organisations are carrying out commercial and non-commercial activities and events on local beaches without the required permission.
According to the beach policy formalised back in 2020, people are required to apply to the Ministry of Natural Resources & Labour — whether by filing an application or a written letter — to use beaches for any commercial activity; regardless of the size of operation, presence or absence of a structure, type of structure or whether its temporary or permanent operation.
“This applies to all bars or restaurant operations, snack vending, souvenir crafting, beach chair rental, watersport operations other nature-based activities, hair-braiding activities, spa massaging or any other activities involving the sale of goods and services at the beach,” Turnbull noted.
The policy further requires the ministry’s approval of non-commercial activities in cases where there would be groups larger than 50 persons, where there are loudspeakers and/or open fires.
Persons are required to file an application or a letter written to the Ministry of Natural Resources & Labour for approval.
Illegally squatting on the Crown’s land
Turnbull said that in addition to violating the beach policy, in many instances persons are “building structures on beaches illegally and even squatting on the Crown’s land”.
“Persons are also operating without basic legal requirements such as the trade license, liquor licence, and food handlers licence. In addition to requiring permission for the use outlined above, the beach policy sets out perimeters within which persons must operate to ensure the protection of beaches and the enjoyment for all users. For example, the policy states that no equipment or beach chairs should remain on the sandy areas of the beach unless they are in use. All items not in use must be immediately removed from the sandy area,” the minister explained.
Notwithstanding this stipulation of the policy, Turnbull said authorities within the ministry have observed on numerous occasions a direct violation on several of the beaches in the territory.
He said that following these unauthorised events, empty beach chairs are often abandoned for days causing obstruction of views and obstructing the use of preferred areas of beachgoers.
Police and AG’s Chambers to get involved
Turnbull also said the policy prohibits the cutting or removal of beach vegetation but complained that commercial operators have cleared a large section of vegetation on Beef Island/Long Bay beach.
“The ministry will not continue to tolerate such blatant violations around beach use and management. The ministry will collaborate with the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force, the community partners, Town & Country Planning Department, Trade Department, Attorney General’s Chambers and other relevant authorities to upload the beach policy and to enforce the applicable legislation,” Turnbull warned.
“That means in the future persons can expect for unapproved events and activities to be discontinued. We are simply asking that persons comply with the rules and regulations,” added Turnbull who noted that if the territory doesn’t preserve the its beaches, eventually reckless behaviour will chase away the very businesses persons are trying to benefit from today.