There will always be reasons to build on the beach if you are the owner of coastal property. It’s a sense of exclusivity – being able to walk from the living room into the water and back! It’s the epitome of island luxury.
Coastal construction, however, has become a major source of social, political and economic upheaval in the Caribbean, Barbados in particular. While private beaches can be found in other countries, such as Jamaica and The Bahamas, the 166sq.m Barbados has a population that says, ‘there aren’t enough beaches to privatize any’.
The Town planning department of Barbados has four stated restrictions for building, including Harrisons Cave Zone, Water Protection Zone, Airport Zone and the integrated Rural Development Project. None include beach development. However, the government has given responsibility to the Coastal Zone Management Unit (CZMU) to assist the Town Planning Department in making final decisions.
The Unit provides advice to the Chief Town Planner based on environmental considerations to minimize any negative impacts associated with development along the coast.
AN IDB study on the state of social housing in 6 Caribbean Countries, highlighted the impact on Climate change on coastal areas.
The study, by Pauline McHardy and Michael Donovan, says that in the Caribbean, extreme climate events are becoming more common. “This is a major concern because the main towns studied are located in the coastal zones. While Jamaica and The Bahamas lie in the direct path of tropical storms and hurricanes, all six countries are subject to climate change impacts, particularly sea level rise.”
So what are the top 5 considerations for coastal construction?
- The view
Several properties line the shores in various islands, obscuring the view of the beach from the roadway. While some may not find this to be a major issue, small islanders consider the beach a necessary retreat from daily life and of social benefit for all to enjoy. It also adds to the feeling that you are on the island. Some may argue, what’s the point of living on a small island and not be able to see the water, although you are right next to it?
- The water
Climate change has affected the islands and although some people seek to make the issue into a myth, erosion of sand and changes in coastlines mean that foundations of coastal properties are at risk of being washed away with a few storm surges. You may want to be as close to the water as possible, but it may not be a wise investment. The prudent use of coastal development setbacks or establishing a safe distance between buildings and the active beach zone can ensure that space is provided for a beach to move naturally.
- The marine life
Many of us treasure the turtles that nest on the sand and we like to have as much beach as possible available to them. After all, the island belongs to them too! Other marine life, such as birds also make their homes in the trees that make up mangroves along the beaches and the less imposition on them, the more tropical our islands remain. Consider the other non-human lives that also matter.
- Beach users
All Caribbean nationals don’t have to pay to access the best beaches like Montego Bay in Jamaica. In Barbados, residents cherish the fact that the beaches belong to everyone. This fosters a sense of community, with regular beach clean-up campaigns to keep the space just perfect! Big, imposing boulders and semi-walls may add to your sense of security, but if they block beach lovers from a continuous walk along the stretch of white, rose or champagne sand, then your building may not ‘fit in’.
- The cost
In order to get all that you want out of your investment, you may need a bigger budget than initially anticipated to make sure that regulators, the public and your personal interests are all satisfied.
These considerations may not apply to you if you own a private island.