The foreshore – that area between the water and developed land – is the property of the state and people of Guyana.
This was explained yesterday to Stabroek News by Commissioner of the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission (GLSC), Trevor Benn, who noted that as far as he is aware no organization can deny public access to the foreshore.
Benn was at the time providing an invited comment on the decision by the Marriott Hotel to designate a section of the foreshore immediately behind the hotel “private property”. He stressed that while he cannot speak definitively on what provisions were contained in the lease agreement between the Government of Guyana and Atlantic Hotel Inc (AHI) – the special purpose company set up to run the Marriott Hotel – he can say that several regulations including the State Lands Act and the Sea Defence Act identify the foreshore as state land specifically as part of the Sea Defence.
The Sea Defence Act specifically defines Sea Defence as all land 50 feet landward of the crest or top of any reef, bank or natural feature under and all land on the other side thereof in the direction of the sea as far as the mean high water mark.
As part of the sea defence, Benn like Geoffrey Vaughn, Head of the Work Services Group of the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, has indicated that this is public space.
However, Chairman of AHI Hewley Nelson told Stabroek News yesterday that the beach area extending up to 50 meters from the hotel fence is part of the hotel’s holdings and the signs were erected as a means of securing those holdings and its guests. He explained that the erections were made in response to a Christmas Eve party held on the shore which the hotel viewed as a security breach.
Benn has noted that there are many who believe that because their property extends to the low water mark it gives them rights to the foreshore but this has not been true since 1938. He explained that the hotel may have been granted access or use of the space which is not the same as ownership but has promised a more detailed response to the situation in the New Year.
“It is quite possible that the decision makers at the time would’ve given then authority to utilize it for the business but it should not have become their private property. In fact government has been taken to court in several instances for similar claims since there are many who believe they have rights to the foreshore,” he explained.
Vaughn, too, has promised a more detailed response in the New Year.