BVI News

Present airport expansion plan will destroy natural resources, business

This story has been updated

Opposition Leader Marlon Penn has expressed concern that present plans to expand the Terrance B Lettsome International Airport on Beef Island could wipe out valuable natural resources and businesses in that section of the territory.

Penn — whose concerns surround how the government’s current plan adversly shifts the location of the sections of the airport such as its runway —  has, therefore, called for the government to have public consultations to let residents know exactly how the expansion project will be carried out and how it will affect surrounding areas.

He said these proposed design threatens to wipe out adjacent businesses and the Hans Creek National Park which is a protected area with great ecological and economic significance to the BVI.

“Based on this schematic [design], if this project is done, it will wipe out all the properties towards the west, all the properties on the east side of this proposed development and Hans Creek will be no more. I hope that this is just wishful thinking and that we’ll have a proper conversation and consultation in terms of what is being proposed there,” Penn said.

Remember the protests

Penn recalled a series of marches that were held in the BVI to stop a previous development that was proposed in the vicinity of Hans Creek National Park. 

He questioned why elected leaders would agree to destroy that area now when some of them were part of those protests held in the past.

“Are we saying we are now okay with something that could potentially wipe out Hans Creek and all the adjacent businesses in that area? It’s okay, no? Are we saying we are not going to have the level of consultations necessary for a project of this magnitude?” Penn questioned.

Notably, the expansion of the said airport was first proposed by the previous NDP administration of which Penn was a member. However, in a short conversation with our news centre Tuesday morning, Penn explained that the previous plans under the NDP merely sought to expand the runway and not change its location to disenfranchise local businesses or natural resources. He made it clear that he is not against the expansion itself.

Where will the money come from?

In addition, Penn questioned the Airport Authority’s ability to fund the expansion of the airport, amid the battering the economy has taken from the onset of COVID-19.

“Considering that just recently, the same Airport Authority had to cut staff because of financial constraints. Where are we going to get the financing? There is a level of investment that is needed by the government. The budget does not reflect that reality. We have to set the right expectation,” Penn argued.

In his recent budget presentation, Premier Andrew Fahie announced that the Airports Authority is currently working on a $158 million business plan that will include runway, taxiway, aircraft parking, terminal, car park and roadway improvements.

This Capital Improvement Programme, will permit tourists and investors to fly nonstop to the BVI from major cities such as New York, Toronto and London, just to name a few cities.

The completion of the improvements is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2025.

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  1. Yes says:

    Thank you Mr Penn.Too much nonsense is happening in secret. Govt trying to aquire all of Beef Island to put a runway through surfsong all the way north,just flattening hills and filling ponds and Hans Creek till it reaches the far side of Trellis where the electricity pole is for the undersea cable. Its madness and will massively destroy wildlife and fish stocks in the whole area.
    The orginal extension on piles is a good idea OR for less money keep Beef Island as the regional airport and bring large International flights to Anegada with fast 30 minute ferry trips direct to VG and Tortola / Jost.

    Like 30
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    • okay says:

      Don’tyou think an international airport on Anegada will have that same effect?

      Like 9
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    • Doh says:

      You know who’s against the airport project? Everyone.

      Trellis bay, scrub island, the charter industry, locals, environmentalists…. the list is endless. There is little to gain and so much to lose.

      Another bad idea from leaders who can’t count the money in their pockets and don’t know how to look to the future.

      But carry on.

  2. Resident says:

    Reliable ferries and coordination from STT; with a dedicated pick up dock leased near STT airport. It will be a fraction of the capital spend; much less environmentally harmful. It will also be in keeping with the likely tourist numbers, for the BVI tourist product which is inherently low volume, as we have no big resorts.

    Like 35
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    • LG says:

      Exactly. you can do modern high speed ferry service for a fraction of the cost and tap into an international airport in St Thomas that does have flights coming from major cities. We are never going to attract routes from Major cities. Maybe a flight a week from Miami and New York is that worth 150-200 million or more NO. Bad economics! and who will pay? Social Security again?

      Like 33
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  3. Anonymous says:

    I just don’t get it Andrew Fahie was against the expansion of the Runway and now he wants to do the same thing.
    People of the BVI we have to stand up against this government the longer they are in power the more we will suffer they are only interested in themselves.

    Where is all this money coming from? In times like this, we have a budget of over four hundred million. People of the BVI we have to do something to stop this government.

    Marlon Penn, did you think about all of this when you were in power? I think we have a case of the kettle calling the pot bottom black.

    What you are saying is true, But did you let your government know that?

    Like 27
  4. SMI says:

    I just don’t get it Andrew Fahie was against the expansion of the Runway and now he wants to do the same thing.
    People of the BVI we have to stand up against this government the longer they are in power the more we will suffer they are only interested in themselves.

    Where is all this money coming from? In times like this, we have a budget of over four hundred million. People of the BVI we have to do something to stop this government.

    Marlon Penn, did you think about all of this when you were in power? I think we have a case of the kettle calling the pot bottom black.

    What you are saying is true, But did you let your government know that?

    Like 6
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  5. When says:

    When Marlon was in power the proposed expansion would not have affected his f****r’s business so he was not opposed to it.

    Now it does and he’s angry. Not at the expansion, at the affect it will have on his d**’s business.


    What a character!

    Like 13
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  6. LG says:

    who is going to pay for this in a time where there is a deficit. Social Security again?

    Like 12
  7. dooped says:

    If we have not realized that our Premier is a confused and deceitful person when will we do so?
    He deceived us by not telling us that he would give out 1,500 belongers (not that I have anything against people being belongers but he should have said this during his campaign). He deceived us by not saying he would make gambling legal in the country. He deceived us by not saying that he would turn our country into a marijuana state. He deceived us by saying that he was against the airport and that the ferries through St.Thomas was sufficient. Now here he is pushing full steam ahead without money to expand the airport. He deceived when he said that independence would hurt the BVI (this was said shortly after being elected) now every word out of his mouth is independence. He deceived us by saying the former government left the country broke but he has been on a spending spree for the last two years when his government has not brought one revenue raising measure since taking office. if we do not realize by now that we have been dooped, I don’t know when we will.

    Like 31
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  8. Court case says:

    Isn’t there a previous court ruling concerning Hans Creek when there was a proposed development? I could be wrong but some kind of research needs to be done ASAP

    Like 10
  9. #@@ says:

    Please people… anytime they are going to touch S\S money (our money) again..we are not going to sit down with our mouths closed. They will hear from us until they stop that sh_t. If they continue to use it as a bank,then nothing will be there when some of us are ready to receive our benefits.
    Enough is enough… Stop that sh_t.

    Like 10
  10. Dman says:

    Agree with Resident and LG.
    Ferries, Ferries, Ferries.
    Better Custom Welcome Areas, with an emphasis on Welcome.

    Like 9
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  11. Take a vote says:

    This issue looks like it could use a referendum. What do we prefer?
    (A) Bigger airport and no Hans Creek or
    (B) Hans Creek + better Ferry Facilities and Services

  12. Anonymous says:

    Marlon sickening with this opposing for opposing sake. When NDP was in favor of the golf course in Beef Island they never had problems with the destruction while there were protest. NDP also had intentions to do the same thing and he didn’t complain.The big reason why everybody opposed the extension was the timing and cost. I still don’t think it’s a good idea to extend the airport now as people will compare the cost to enter through St Thomas and Beef island and St Thomas will always win.

  13. @Resident says:

    You people don’t quite get it. Tourists want to board a flight and get off the plane and be at their destination. This is why islands that have the capacity to handle large jets are prospering not only in tourism but in real estate value and other products. A tourist does not want to land on another island, collect their luggage, take a costly taxi because the island man is obligated to rip him off, take a ferry, collect his luggage again and then finally reach his vacation spot. If you have trouble understanding this then don’t make stupid comments about ferry’s being the solution. The ferry is the travel solution to the island man who doesn’t give a s**t as long as it’s cheap.

    Like 11
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    • Wrong says:

      Wrong… A lot of tourists stay on the West side of Tortola & prefer to catch a flight to St Thomas & take the ferry to West End. Only those staying on the East side of Tortola like to fly into Beef Island.

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  14. Bvi says:

    Waste of money
    Nobody will fry through Tortola airport is the have a US visa it’s cheaper to take the ferry to st Thomas and fry to there destinations from there
    Bvi is a joke

    Like 3
    Dislike 4
  15. De says:

    I do not agree with a expansion of the airport. Take into consideration all that we have been thru, the flood followed by two cat 5 hurricanes and now this virus it’s not a good decision now or never. We need time to rebuilt our finances before further embarking on any major project such as this. From my point of view and what experts say it may take at least two tourist season to turn this around. I know that businesses are suffering but let look at this a do it right.

    The airport however, does need an upgrade there is no denying this. Improve the waiting and arrival lounges. Make immigration and customs area comfortable for locals and visitors alike,. Gift shops should be properly outfitted and items relatable to the territory. Restutant and bar the same. We don’t need any flashy items like others that their citizens now struggling to pay.

    The next moves is to fix transporting persons here. Since we are surrounded by several major intl airports we can tap into that. We have a local airline V.I. Airlink that travels to Antigua why not subsidize them to fly a route from the BVI to PR, STT, St. Martin and Antigua to ensure a steady flight availability. For passengers arriving late night have a flight leaving St.Thomas and PR around 9pm so our visitors do not have additional expense of overnight . Ferries should have similar arrangement only that the rotate leaving about 6:30pm instead of all leaving the same time every afternoon. Most importantly ask our input in this matter as this decision affects everyone now and our future generations. Let be reasonably about this. Do not put our future generation in further Debt than needed. Remember they have to pay for the hospital on Tortola and VG plus all loans from Social Security and any other debts. Think wisely about this and proceed with caution.

    Like 6
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  16. Hang on says:

    The NDO had airport expansion as part of their manifesto. Only Irma pushed it back. So what is the difference now. Real politics, you support it then but now you in opposition you against it. Really !!

  17. THINK BIG says:

    Connect St.Thomas by bridge to St.John and at the closest point to Tortola. Now think about the massively enhanced tourist product,shipping and trade and an opportunity for persons to have space to move around and experience life from a different perspective. Spread out.

    Like 3
    Dislike 7
    • Strange says:

      Whomever you are, you are a visionary! These are the kind of vision for development in the BVI. I definitely will give you my vote not the current political leadership we have now.

  18. Rubber Duck says:

    Our problem is we are never going to be a mass tourist destination because, for reasons of labour, power and building cost we are expensive. Nor do we really want to be a down market mass tourist destination. So maybe we should start by deciding how many tourists we want or can attract

    St Lucia that has an international airport attracts just over 400,000 overnight visitors per year.

    Antigua with direct connections to London and New York and Miami, about 270,000 per year.

    Barbados, the number one in the Eastern Caribbean , has about 1.3 million tourists.

    If we could get an additional 250,000 – 500,000 by having our own airport it would be a fine achievement

    But it’s not many people to pay for such a huge investment.

  19. L Ipton says:

    158 million dollars expansion project. Somebody need to get a comparative 7 million as with the airplane! What will be the costs over-runs. Another 50 million?

    People wake up. These are merely politician gimmicks for politicians and cronies to get rich quickly at the public expense.

    There is no need for this level of spending at the moment.

  20. Bob says:

    Ferries and better service and schedules !

  21. Nature Lover says:

    Hand Creek is beautiful!!! I will be first in line to protest against any action to destroy this beautiful area and I will strongly encourage others to do the same.

  22. Dont have facilites says:

    Did you know that for a large airplane to land the BVI has to have hotel space to hold all the passengers at the last minute? Has to have enough hospital beds to cater for all in case of a crash?
    Plus a bunch more technical stuff. In peak season Tortola does not have spare 200 beds.
    The only reason its being pushed is for larger private jets for *** etc to land their guests. This is not for the little people and its why Fahie changed his mind when he became Premier and found out about the North Sound K*****cks.

    • Spirit says:

      The present airport doesn’t have any problem accommodating the private jets. The BVI has none of the infrastructure needed to support the number of tourists that “real” jumbo jets would bring.

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