DUBAI: Residents of Palm Jumeirah’s luxury Shoreline towers yesterday urged police to unlock the back door of a building closed by its developer in a row over beach access.

The crowd met in a lobby trying in vain to have officers open the entrance, which was shut by Nakheel to stop residents using the beach.

The two-hour gathering was the latest escalation in the month-long dispute at the 20-tower development over use of the beach, pool and gymnasium.

Nakheel has banned residents whose units have unpaid service fees from access to the facilities.

To enforce the ban they locked the back doors of the 10 apartment buildings that open on to the pool and beach. Security guards in the lobbies received orders to keep the doors shut.

Beachgoers were forced to use the back doors of five “clubhouse” buildings connected to the apartment towers, where security guards have been posted to screen entrants.

To pass, residents must show “temporary access cards” with their photos on them, which are issued by Nakheel once invoices are settled.

Because owners are responsible for paying these fees, which help to maintain the property and pay for services such as security guards, the measure has affected tenants who rent the apartments.

Owners contend they should only have to pay the portion of service charges that have been approved by Dubai’s Real Estate Regulatory Authority, a stance the government body has endorsed in writing. They also say that, because the lobby and the patio on the other side of the back door are “common areas” they legally own, Nakheel has no right to shut the doors.

The few dozen people who gathered at 10am yesterday applauded when the resident Nader Alizedah asserted that right.

“Not only the patio outside but the steps, the other patio, all the way to the walkways – all those are our property,” Mr Alizedah said.

“Being denied access to it by the people we pay to maintain the premises is very unfortunate, very difficult to understand. So that’s why we’re here.”

The group asked the lobby security guard to open the door. He said he was not authorised to so do.

They then called for his supervisor who arrived and said the same, so they called police.

Two officers arrived at 10.30am, unaware of the weeks of frustration that had led to this moment. They told security guards to send Nakheel officials to the lobby but in the end spoke to one by phone.

After an hour of discussion, a few owners gave their names to the officers and went to a nearby station to file a complaint.

Some residents also complained that locking the back doors might pose a fire hazard, especially as the front doors are electronic.

The police have been called more than a dozen times to resolve confrontations at the clubhouse doors since the residential exits were blocked last month.

In another incident, Hamish Harding, a British tenant with an access card, refused to produce it when entering the gym, claiming such passes should not be necessary. Mr Harding said the officers who arrived at the guards’ request regarded the event as too minor to pursue. “We’ve got to fight this,” he said.

Zarina Chinchanwala, 80, an Indian, said she and her husband, both retired doctors, spent much of their free time swimming and going to the beach.

But to show solidarity with fellow owners they have not applied for access cards, even though they have paid all of the fees on their apartment since 2007.

“We paid dues up to present but because of supporting these people we’re not getting a card,” Mrs Chinchanwala said.

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