Branson backs bid to save Virgin Island mangroves from tourists

Tycoon funds challenge against planned tourism complex on Caribbean island

A A A

Sir Richard Branson is backing a landmark legal challenge by environmental campaigners against a multimillion-pound luxury leisure complex which threatens to destroy some of the most eco-sensitive mangrove swamps in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), the paradise home of the British business tycoon.

The case, which is to be heard in full next year, is expected to have far-reaching consequences for the protection of the fragile Caribbean environment. Sir Richard, head of the Virgin group of companies, has paid for a team of barristers, led by the former chairman of the Bar Stephen Hockman QC, to fly to the group of islands and seek to stop plans to build a marina, five-star hotel and golf course in the British overseas territory.

The Branson family home is on Necker Island, which Sir Richard bought for £180,000 in 1979 and is located just over the water from Beef Island where the development is planned. At threat is one of the most important mangrove systems in the BVI, providing a vital home for hatchlings and juvenile fish, lobster and conch. Under the BVI government plans one of the golf holes is to be sited in the middle of the disputed area.

The Virgin Islands Environmental Council (VIEC), a charity supported by Sir Richard and other interested groups, says it has brought the action to seek legal protection of the environment in the BVI for future generations.

A council spokesman said: "This is a landmark case that addresses a number of important issues which will impact on the future of environmental law and practice throughout the Caribbean. The outcome of this case will definitely impact the way other large projects currently under planning review are dealt with, leading to a more sustainable future for the BVI.

"The case will serve to define more clearly the government's responsibility in adhering to environmental laws when granting or refusing planning permission."

Last month, the case went to the East Caribbean Supreme Court, which rejected legal objections by the BVI government and the developers to the legal action going ahead. The action will begin in full early next year.

The campaigners hope the legal action currently underway will lead to a reversal of the planning permission and the redesignation of Beef Island as a Caribbean national park.

"We believe this will result in a more sustainable solution for Beef Island and set a healthy legal precedent for BVI and Caribbean development. At best the land may even become available for acquisition by the government with the critical areas being declared national parks, leaving the remainder available for sustainable development.

"By taking legal action, VIEC is ensuring the natural resources of the BVI are preserved for the benefit of future generations, that the government adheres to the procedures set out in law when granting planning permission, and that the people have a voice when addressing environmental issues that affect every citizen's wellbeing," the VIEC spokesman said.

Sir Richard recently announced plans for a new eco-resort on Mosquito Island, another of the British Virgin Islands, which will include 20 villas and a beachfront restaurant powered entirely by wind turbines and solar panels.

The BVI dispute is expected to be used to illustrate the case for an international environmental court which will be debated at a high-profile symposium at the British Library in London today. An International Court for the Environment (ICE) has been championed by Mr Hockman and has been given a cautious welcome by Gordon Brown. The Prime Minister told MPs earlier in the year that the first stage of moving towards an international environment court would be persuading all countries to agree to binding targets.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

Recruitment Genius: PA

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A PA is required to join a leading provider of...

Recruitment Genius: Car Sales Executive - Franchised Main Dealer

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness