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New fence could be erected on Gibbet’s Beach

A new fence could soon be erected to limit access to a private beach after the owners have become frustrated by waste and noise.

Jeremy and Helen Wright, the owners of Gibbet’s Beach — also known as Police Beach — have sought planning permission to erect a fence separating their property from the Railway Trail. According to their application, while their family have been mostly tolerant of people accessing the beach through their property, a number of issues have arisen over the years.

A report included in the application stated: “It has been extremely difficult to secure the area and at times some trespassers have used threatening language and behaviour towards family members due to their misunderstanding about the status of the property.

“There have also been instances where people trespassed and let their dogs on the property without regard for the safety of others. Occasionally the property owners have contacted the police for enforcement of their rights due to the aggressive nature of the trespassers.”

The property, off North Shore Road in Smith’s, has been privately owned for several generations. However, it was bisected in the 1920s due to the acquisition of a strip of land in the middle for the Bermuda Railway Trail, leaving the land as two separate lots.

In subsequent years, the bisecting strip of land became the property of the Bermuda Government, while in 1970 the owners began to rent the western side of the property, containing Gibbet’s Beach, to the Police Recreation Club for a peppercorn of $1 — an agreement that earned the beach the nickname Police Beach. That agreement concluded in 1992.

In 1988, the Ministry of Works and Housing approached the owners about public access to the Railway Trail itself. While the trail can be accessed from North Shore Road, a secondary access point to the property was gated off by the owners in 2008.

A report included in the planning application said that the owners have continued to allow public to use their property to access the beach, some beachgoers have failed to be “respectful” of the property, illegally erecting bonfires and abandoning waste.

While the application states that the proposed fence would clearly mark the separation between public and private land, the owners still intend to allow “small groups” access to use the beach, adding that larger groups would be able to contact the owners about potentially using the beach.

A proposed draft of a sign to be placed on the face states that use of the property is at the sole discretion of the owners, that the owners reserve the right to close or restrict use of the property, and that the property owners reserve the right to clear the property of any people or belongings “at any time for any reason”.

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Environment confirmed that Gibbet’s Beach is private property. “The owners have fenced their property but have graciously created a pedestrian access route to their private beach,” she said.

“Any private beach in Bermuda may be accessed by marine craft, and the area up to the high tide mark may be used by the public.”