CODRINGTON, Barbuda, Dec. 29, 2016 – At least one group of Barbudans is still not ready to roll out the red carpet for American actor Robert De Niro and his billionaire business partner, James Packer, who are planning to revamp and reopen the K Club.
The resort, which became famous after Princess Diana vacationed there with her two sons, Princes William and Harry, was closed 12 years ago. Two years ago, the government of Antigua and Barbuda agreed to lease 555 acres of land on Barbuda to Packer and DeNiro’s company, Paradise Found, on a 198-year lease for $6.2 million. The investors also are seeking to pump another $250 million into the project over 10 years, but only if authorities agree to lease 300 acres around the site, according to the Telegraph.
However, more than 300 of Antigua’s sister isle’s 1,500 residents have signed a petition objecting to the development, saying it is too excessive. The petition is being spearheaded by the Barbuda People’s Movement, which has gone to court to challenge the development.
Group leader Mackenzie Frank told the Telegraph, “Too much is at stake. … No one objects to the K Club being re-opened, but they want so much extra land.”
The BPM also took to the law courts last year to challenge the Paradise Found Act, which the government approved after agreeing to De Niro’s proposal in February 2015. Frank insists the act is unconstitutional and contradicts the Barbuda Land Act.
Prime Minister Gaston Browne has acknowledged the group’s right to protest, but he remains fully supportive of the development.
“We respect their right to protest, and similarly, they ought to respect our right to attract good, sound, tangible investments that grow the economy and put people back to work,” Browne said.
Meanwhile, Ambassador-at-large Gilbert Boustany, the liaison officer between the government and the investors, has disclosed that the project is set to get underway during the first quarter of next year. He told the Antigua Observer that the legal action would not affect the project.
“There is no injunction, there is no stop order or anything like that on the project,” Boustany said. “And I will go further to say the people of Barbuda and even the ones who brought the action fully support the project and would love it. They are just not happy, from their point of view, with the way government handled the process.”
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