(CNS): Dart Real Estate had its excavators on Seven Mile Beach Wednesday as it undertook a controversial trial to take samples of beachrock from the shoreline on its land north of the new Kimpton resort. Despite advice against the work by the Department of Environment as well as the National Conservation Council and opposition from local activists, the islands’ billionaire developer was given approval for the test by Cabinet. With a chunk of the rock now removed, Dart officials said in a release on its website that the samples will be studied by a geologist.
Dart is hoping that once they confirm the samples as beachrock, it will get permission from Cabinet to remove the whole lot ahead of another proposed luxury beachfront resort on the very last stretch of Seven Mile Beach not to go under the bulldozer.
The developer claims it is seeking a way to remove the rock in a way that is “safe and least impactful on the marine and beach environment”, something experts say is impossible.
The DoE has indicated that the rock in this location is not a benign unimportant part of the beach ecosystem and that removing it will not only have an impact on the marine life in the area attracted by the rock but could undermine the stability of the beach — not just on the wealthy investor’s land but the surrounding beachfront property as well.
Local environmental experts are also exceptionally concerned about the precedent that the trial, let alone a full-scale removal, would set. This all comes at a time when conservationists are urging government to control development before the very last of the islands’ natural resources are lost forever.
In its first annual report since it began operating under the National Conservation Law, the National Conservation Council (NCC) recorded its deep concerns about the Cabinet decision to allow this excavation trial.
The council, which is opposed to the preliminary investigation that took place Wednesday as well as the main aim to remove it all, pointed out that this is a marine reserve and it would set a damaging coastal works precedent in a place where none should ever be permitted. The area itself is also “ecologically, culturally and recreationally important” and beach rock provides protection from erosion and wave risks.
The NCC also questioned why Dart Real Estate had not provided any alternative to the rock removal and said the trial was unnecessary. As far back as 2003 the NCC said reports commissioned by government had recommended that “no development should be permitted seaward of the historical vegetation line” on local beaches, with the obvious exception of jetties and docks, but even those should not be allowed on Seven Mile Beach.
Local activist group Save Cayman have postponed a demonstration this Saturday at the location but with over a 1000 signatures on the petition the public appears opposed to Cabinet granting Dart approval to remove the rock for its proposed development. It also posted video footage on its Facebook page of this week’s trial when what appeared to be a significant amount of rock was removed.
However, Dart is keen to press ahead as the site has been identified for a another hotel, which they claim would represent “$600 million in economic impact during construction, add room stock and play a major role in ensuring a pipeline of employment for the construction industry and growth”.
During this test, Vice President of Special Projects for Dart Development, Ken Hydes, said the excavator was able to easily remove sections of rock, which appear to be stratified as cemented sand over a small layer of peat.
“It’s remarkable how thin the layers of beach rock actually are,” he said. “Only a few of the pieces we observed were more than a foot thick.”