Railway Trail Statement
Burch vows to open Police Beach access
The Government could take over land to grant public access to a beach cut off by private property, the public works minister said yesterday.
Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch said the Government would step in over a long-running controversy at Gibbet Island Beach, also known as Police Beach, and would acquire the land with a compulsory purchase order if necessary.
He told the House of Assembly: “When the opportunity arises, even in a very small way, to take steps to correct past injustices, we must. It is never too late to do the right thing and I believe we are doing so in this case.”
A sign posted on the property next to Police Beach already permits access “at the discretion of the owners”. The sign said that there was no night access and banned loud music and “antisocial behaviour” on the beach.
The property is owned by Jeremy and Helen Wright, who declined to comment yesterday.
Police Beach, which is public below the high water mark was rented to the Police Recreation Club for a peppercorn rent of $1 in 1977, which is how it acquired the name. Colonel Burch said the arrangement had allowed police “almost exclusive access to the beach”. He added: “In practical terms, that meant white policemen only.”
The lease agreement with the Police Recreation Club agreement ended in 1992.
Colonel Burch said that the ministry planned to approach the property owners to “gauge their interest in selling it”.
He warned the Government would pursue ownership under the Acquisition of Land Act 1970 if the owners were not prepared to sell.
Colonel Burch also told MPs that a portion of the Railway Trail in the same area was about to be made public.
This applies to a separate property with different owners.
He said the section of trail had been leased to a private trust in June 1998 for 21 years to allow access to a privately owned property.
He added: “The grant of this lease effectively blocked access to that entire portion of the Railway Trail to the general public, who cannot access it without traversing land that is now privately held.”
Colonel Burch said that lease expired at midnight last night and would not be renewed.
He added: “The former leaseholder, like any other member of the public, will still be able to access their property from the trail.”
• To read the minister’s statement in full, click on the PDF link under “Related Media”