Beef Island is an island in the British Virgin Islands. It is located to the east of Tortola, and the two islands are connected by the Queen Elizabeth Bridge. Beef Island is the site of the Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport (IATA code EIS), the main commercial airport that serves Tortola and the rest of the British Virgin Islands.
Trellis Bay is a short walk east of the airport. Trellis Bay is a small town (market, restaurant, coffee shop, local crafts) and beach. Long Bay is west of the airport.
In 2007, a major development on Beef Island was made subject to delays after challenges from an environmentalist group calling itself the British Virgin Islands Heritage Conservation Group. The proposed five-star hotel with a golf course and marina was proposed for development near Hans Creek, on the south east side of the island. After a judicial review, the British Virgin Islands court ordered the project suspended whilst the legal review was undertaken.
The controversy of the development on Beef Island started the October of 2006 when the Chief Minister of the British Virgin Islands, Dr. Orlando Smith, decided to approve the construction of a hotel on the island of Tortola, connected to Beef Island by the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge. Despite complaints at a public meeting held by the planning committee on January 24th, 2007, plans for construction remained the same. Some of the local reasoning against the construction of the hotel included dangers to island habitat such as the salt pond, coral reef, mangroves, and fears of contaminating the local water supply along with other consequences such as increased traffic and overcrowding. On January 31st, 2007, the Chief Minister approved construction of another hotel, this time on neighboring Beef Island in a location called Hans Creek. This approval was questionable because Hans Creek is a location that the Virgin Islands Fisheries Regulations had marked as protected, making it illegal to develop anything that would harmfully affect the environment. Fearing this potentially illegal development, activist groups on the island came together to combine their resources and created VIEC, the Virgin Islands Environmental Council. Starting out, VIEC lead small demonstrations in which they went to the proposed construction sites and collected signatures and talked to other locals about the possible harmful effects that would be a result from the construction. That July, VIEC collected 18,000 signatures in support of their efforts from people around the world and presented it to local government agencies. Later, in 2007 with donations mainly made by Sir Richard Branson, the owner of two islands in the British Virgin Islands and Virgin Atlantic Airlines, tactics shifted from protests and demonstrations to focusing on legal proceedings against the government for giving permission to build in a protected location. Then in 2008, VIEC also got more legal and financial support from the Ocean River Institute, an organization based in the United States. On September 23, 2009, coincidentally, the international day of peace, the organization VIEC won its lawsuit in the High Court against the government. The Judge ruled that the Beef Island Development project was illegally given permission by the Prime Minister to develop on Hans Creek. It was deemed illegal because the development planned was considered harmful development and in Hans Creek, under the Fisheries Regulations, harmful development is illegal.
This win did not last long. On August 12th 2011, the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court of Appeal decided that the ruling made in 2009 by the High Court was invalid because Hans Creek was not correctly made a protected area, this meant that the original permission given to the Beef Island Development Project by Chief Minister of the British Virgin Islands, Dr. Orlando Smith, is legal.
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