PAC challenges planning over enforcement

| 16/08/2017 | 59 Comments

(CNS): The chair of the Public Accounts Committee, and opposition leader, Ezzard Miller warned government officials that people are choosing to press ahead with development projects without planning permission because they believe they can get after-the-fact approval once something is built, rather than trying to get permission in the first place. The issue of planning failing to enforce the law over illegal developments was one of many subjects causing concern for the committee when it met, Wednesday, for the first time since the election of the new administration in May.

Director of Planning  Haroon Pandohie and Chief Officer in the Ministry of Planning, Commerce and Infrastructure Alan Jones were both grilled by the committee on a number of issues including the problem of illegal developments. Miller pressed the men on why these projects seem to be able to get planning permission after the fact. He raised his concerns that the Central Planning Authority was allowing people to flaunt the laws.

Miller used the example of an illegal wall by the dock in Frank Sound where the landowner constructed a breeze-block wall, without planning permission, that reaches down into the ocean, blocking the lawful public beach access. The PAC chair pointed out that this is a longstanding issue and although the landowner has received some kind of after-the-fact planning permission, it was conditional on the wall being modified and set back to allow public access, but that hasn’t been done.

The issue of the illegal wall was reported on CNS in April last year when readers complained. But despite admissions then by the Department of Planning that the owner did not have permission and the department was in discussions, more than 15 months later access to the beach remains blocked.

Miller raised his concerns not just about this specific project and the failings of planning to publicise the outcome but also about the wider problems caused by the lack of enforcement when things are erected without planning permission, along with the failure of the CPA to publish the rationale for its decisions. He said it wasn’t just small things, that major developers also do it and then when they have spent millions on a project, outside the law, they threaten to sue government. Miller made a veiled reference to the Kimpton SeaFire hotel, which exceeds the legal height in the planning law, because the developer raised the ground level on the property, circumventing the storey restrictions. 

“We don’t have adequate enforcement,” Miller said. “It is easier to get forgiveness than to get permission before you do it.”

He urged the planning department to introduce a separate  process so that the CPA was not dealing with after-the-fact applications which he said should be handled by the director of planning, and that developers should be required to demolish illegal structures and then re-apply to build them legally.

One of the new members of the Legislative Assembly and the committee, Chris Saunders, the opposition member for Bodden Town West, said government and politicians needed to restore public confidence in planning as he raised concerns that it was an area rife with “corruption and conflict” and was influenced by outside and political forces. 

Although both Jones and Pandohie were not in complete agreement with Miller over how to deal with after-the-fact planning permission, Jones said that he would talk to the minister about possible policy changes to deal with some of the problems it creates. Pandohie admitted that there was a problem with after-the-fact planning permission and the issues it presented. He said there had been “a remarkable increase in compliance problems” in recent times and said that Cayman was moving to a “culture of  let’s build it and see”, which he described as a problem in several respects but most of all in the dangers posed by unsafe buildings. He said the effect was an increase in electrical and gas fires and other hazards that posed a danger to the wider community. 

The PAC had called the witnesses to talk about a range of issues arising out of a 2015 report by the auditor general and her subsequent review of reports and how far various government departments had gotten in implementing the recommendations made in those publications and by the PAC.

One of the reports where she found only minor progress had been made was National Land Development and Government Real Property. Among the many controversies thrown up by that report was the failure of the department to undertake the statutory-required review of the nation’s development plan. Speaking on Wednesday, Jones said the new minister, Joey Hew, had made a commitment to completing the survey of the national plan and the ministry had made the necessary requests for the CI$360,000 needed to undertake the work. The chief officer said it was cited in the Strategic Policy Statement that the new government is expected to deliver when the LA meets in the next few weeks.

Pandohie also confirmed that discussions have been underway and the minister and ministry supported public access to planning meetings, with moves ahead to enable people to attend those meetings. The two men also revealed that government has appointed two new people to the planning board but this has not been made public. They also confirmed that the members have each signed a register of interest outlining their relevant interests and conflicts, but Pandohie admitted these have not been made public.

Miller urged the ministry to release the CPA register forms as he said it was entirely pointless if the public was not able to see the potential conflicts members have. Given that the conflicts regarding board members have been a point of wide public concern for many years and no time line has been offered for when these will be made public, CNS immediately submitted an FOI request for the details.

Tags: , , ,

Category: Government oversight, Local News

Comments (59)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Anonymous says:

    People are pressing ahead with projects because the planning department is a mess and they would lose everything if they had to wait for government. All the planning employees and inspectors especially think they are demigods and have ultimate rule regardless of codes.




    24



    8
    • Anonymous says:

      Well it seems all those pressing ahead regardless equally think they are also demigods and above the law. One wrong doesn’t right another.




      15



      1
    • Anonymous says:

      If the wall in Frank Sound reaches down into the ocean, doesn’t that mean it’s on public property, or the Queens Bottom. Why don’t you just go and tear it down! No wonder local,people are so angry. The average Joe can’t get away if he does something like that.




      18



      0
    • Anonymous says:

      The majority of illegal construction is in Windsor Park and other hidden “shanty towns” where the rule of law is not present.

      Try making these people knock down an unpermitted shed added to an unpermitted structure with spaghetti wiring stealing power to the one bulb in the hole in the ground outhouse……..and 28 illegal workers will be homeless.




      4



      1
  2. Anonymous says:

    The reason the CPA exists is to deal mainly with variance applications. Why is there such a high need to get certain conditions waived and why can every Tom, Dick and Harry apply for a variance? Overhaul the planning laws and regulations and then stick to what is there.




    26



    0
    • Chris Johnson says:

      You are spot on. The purple hut selling beach chair rental and the car park by them fish market are contrary to all the setbacks defined in the planning regulations. Variances were granted for all sides in spite of protests from neighbours and guess what. A member of the CPA board got the roofing contract. Moreover the developer was told to construct a proper fence, not a Mickey Mouse cheap rope fence.

      The biggest single problem is as you state, variances. The law needs changing as well as most of the board. Time also for more enforcement notices.




      5



      0
  3. Anonymous says:

    The problem with the Central Planning Authority is that they believe their remit is to supervise every job in Cayman. Get rid of three quarters of the staff, stick to planning, and concentrate on long term planning.




    17



    3
    • Chris Johnson says:

      Planning not only do not have the staff but most of the time they ignore what goes on under their noses. For example the rope fence installed next to the fish market was finally taken down after several months when a complaint was filed as no planning permission had been obtained. More especially the CPA advised the owner that a proper fence was required before a COA could be issued. However this developer is always above the law. His building contravenes every set back in the book and the car park is an accident waiting to happen. How on earth planning approved this is beyond me.

      The auditors report on the CPA has been ignored by all and whilst the constitution of the board remains 100% of persons in the construction business, corruption and nepotism will run unabated. The last person to resign was a well respected lawyer who could no longer tolerate the crap that went on.

      Ezzard you are dead right. Changes must evolve including new legislation.




      43



      1
      • Anonymous says:

        Great comment Chris.




        16



        1
      • Anonymous says:

        That property you speak of was developed by a true Caymanian family with a long history of quality developments. Get over it!




        2



        41
        • Anonymous says:

          Entitlement ???




          17



          0
        • Anonymous says:

          So illegal is OK then?




          30



          1
        • Chris Johnson says:

          Mr anonymous of 2.52 it rather looks like your blog is not received well by most people. More especially you refer to ‘ a true Caymanian Family’ . It would appear that you are racially bias. Frankly I do not care but note you are not willing to put your name to your response. I assume you have no balls.

          For your edification whilst I built the sidewalk along the street to preserve lives and enhance the vista the adjoining developer has ignored Cayman history and tried to prevent Caymanians and others from swimming in the sea along North Church Street which they have done for decades. Luckily yesterday the CPA did not approve his latest venture of putting up a rope fence around his lot. Better still the developer had to remove the tacky rope fence down to the sea.

          Notwithstanding that it was clear today the developer had waiver two fingers to the Government as he was open for business on his ‘ private’ beach and charging $20 to all who enter, with no toilet for users and no licences to operate. No one cares but how can the Government continue to let him operate?

          As to the land next door that I own: all are welcome to swim in the sea without fear of draconian chair rentals. Let us all try turn back the clock and enjoy what are the islands greatest assets, it’s beauty and its people.




          25



          0
          • Anonymous says:

            That family help all the time. Mr. Gene built health city to help all the poor people get good health care.




            1



            9
            • Anonymous says:

              Mr Gene built health city to make a lot of money. There is nothing wrong with that and I hope he does very well from it, but please do not pretend charity was the predominant reason.




              5



              0
  4. Anonymous says:

    The entire CPA board especially Chairman and Deputy need to be replaced. The board is full of conflicts XXXXXX look at the decisions made




    33



    3
    • Anonymous says:

      Just look who gets work or supplies on these jobs. That board is just a buddy system. Get rid of them all plus these directors of departments who are feathering there own nests. Big pay to do nothing.




      29



      2
  5. Anonymous says:

    Zzzzzzzzzzzzz




    2



    2
  6. anonymous says:

    This will only affect foreigners. I guarantee if a caymanian does that BCU will find a way to ignore it or get around. Look at how many additions are made to houses and apartments in stratas and nothing done to stop them or demolish them.




    12



    13
  7. Anonymous says:

    Yes they will. Watch and see.




    3



    2
    • Anonymous says:

      I presume you are responding to 7.04pm’s suggestion that our laws will not be enforced? So what do you say they will enforce? Will overseas architects and engineers and interior designers and tillers and marketing specialists and decorators and stop being allowed to come and go as they please without any local licensing or even work permits? Will anyone be prosecuted for employing anyone without a work permit or for operating an element of trade or business without licensing? Will developers be allowed to continue to employ these trades direct in other countries thus excluding local firms from participating in our market? Will the planning department shred submissions that plainly come from overseas without any substantial involvement from locally licensed service providers? Will any substantial unlawfully built structures be bulldozed?




      23



      3
  8. Anonymous says:

    why does this one ministry official need to “talk” to the chairman separately when he could just do it while right then and there? This process is ripe with under the table and back room deals. In Cayman its not what you know but who you know! Clean out Ezard & Chris! That whole board needs a huge shake up.




    20



    4
    • Anonymous says:

      You people are really something. You need us to come here and spend our money and then you want to ram a bunch of silly laws in our faces. Thank you CPA as you really see what is needed.




      1



      15
  9. Anonymous says:

    Simple solution – give the property owner 14 days to tear the unauthorised structure down and if they fail to comply send in a bulldozer. That would stop it.




    28



    2
    • Anonymous says:

      Totally agree but for political reasons, nobody would do that cause it would cost the responsible minister votes.




      17



      1
    • Anonymous says:

      4:07 Where I come from in the UK they made a developer tear down a $500K bungalow because it was 18″ larger than the footprint on the plans. Moral – if the will is there it can be done. The only problem is if you try that here money will change hands and the whole problem will quietly vanish. As the saying goes, ‘Money talks,’ and the deveopers here have plenty of it to spread around and get their way.




      15



      2
  10. Anonymous says:

    Hell of a wall if it reaches an ocean from Frank Sound!




    13



    12
  11. Sharkey says:

    Who holds who accountable in Government today . Sounds like every Department do what they want to do contrary to the Laws . But Mr Leggy is right again corruption out of control . Check their pockets and bank accounts see if everything matches up accordingly .




    27



    2
  12. Anonymous says:

    I think it’s time the MLAs stopped making new laws. They need to conduct an audit and start trawling through the laws. Repeal old outdated laws, and concentrate on enforcing the many other laws they have already made. It’s just another sickening, perpetual case of all talk and no action.




    23



    0
  13. Anonymous says:

    People have to “build it and see” due to the delays and the nit picking. Some of the requirements are stupid.




    8



    9
  14. Anonymous says:

    This all goes back to the fact that we do not have the money to enforce our planning laws. The reason is we are giving millions of dollars to rich developers. This make it impossible for government to hire necessary enforcement officers to do the jop as it should be.




    13



    5
  15. Anonymous says:

    Good job Ezzard and Chris. Please bring back some order and civility to the planning board.




    25



    4
  16. Anonymous says:

    If it didn’t take planning so long to review or approve anything this may not happen also.




    13



    0
  17. Anonymous says:

    How can there be public confidence when the CPA is loaded with pure developers and the island’s major building supplier continually reappointed as Chairman. It smells bad.




    29



    3
  18. Anonymous says:

    Since most projects are now dealt with by foreign architects and engineers, with no local licenses, no knowledge of our laws, and by developers motivated only by money and not sustainability, what did you think was going to happen?

    Will our laws be enforced?

    No.




    60



    9
    • Anonymous says:

      You 7.04 are correct in what you say. Planning enables these people, and at the expense of local interests.
      Well done Mr Miller for raising this matter, all we need now is to have our laws respected and enforced.




      17



      3
      • Anonymous says:

        It seems to me that it may be more than enabling. It could even be argued that they are aiding and abetting in the commission of an offense if they accept plans from someone they know is not authorized or licensed to prepare and submit them.




        21



        1
    • Anonymous says:

      Wake up 7.04, the laws are not enforced for anyone…why pick on foreign firms? Little attitude there? Did foreigners build the wall in Frank Sound? Builders should be made to check that projects have licenses before they build. Are you saying the builders are all foreign? No. Those builders are Cayman companies, who know the law well, but cannot resist the lure of the filthy lucre over the law. Look in the mirror before you start dishing out bs.




      20



      7
      • Anonymous says:

        I mentioned foreign firms in particular because some of them, in addition to participating in breaches of our planning and development laws (which I accept are frequently broken by locals as well) are often breaching our immigration, licensing and company control laws and at the same time unfairly competing with capable local service providers. Large numbers of Caymanians appear to have been deprived of careers in consequence.




        13



        4
        • Anonymous says:

          12.10, the truth is in your statement that you accept that laws are frequently broken by locals as well. You just want to blame foreigners. Every construction site I have seen recently has the name and placard or a locally registered building company on it, although I accept I may have not seen all sites. I therefore see your comment just as an anti foreign rant, otherwise if you accept locals break the laws, then why are you not going on about that too?




          8



          10
          • Anonymous says:

            I do and will continue to. The overseas domination of significant elements of our economy, in breach of our laws and at great cost to local service providers, is however highly relevant to this discussion and demonstrates issues of lack of enforcement of our laws well beyond the planning department. Many of the entities I am most worried about do not have any signs at construction sites in Cayman. They have no office in Cayman. They do however come here and work here and there is no sign that they exist, until you realize that the car park has been designed and built for traffic driving on the right hand side of the road, or the customs officer queries why that tourist keeps coming with a hard hat and blueprints in their luggage.




            11



            6
            • Anonymous says:

              You talk too much. Show the proof.




              6



              9
              • Anonymous says:

                Despite near record development a number of local architectural firms have closed or downsized, furniture and tiling companies are struggling, and every interior decorator I have come across in the last few years lives in another country.Take your head out of your backside!




                11



                4
                • Anonymous says:

                  I know several architects personally doing really well, AL Thompson and Kirk home base seem to do well ripping us off at every opportunity, building companies are thriving. Like I thought, no proof, just an anti expat unfounded rant. Trying telling it to a wall, the wall won’t ask for facts. You can rant as much as you like. I particularly enjoyed your insult. Sign of desperation to demonstrate something you can’t win. Psychology 101.




                  5



                  7
      • Anonymous says:

        I am pretty sure that foreigners did indeed build that wall in Frank Sound.I have not seen any significant numbers of Caymanians working on construction sites for 15 years.




        11



        1
    • Anonymous says:

      For once I am with Edward. I wish they would tear down that wall, compulsorily purchase and declare the immediate surrounding area public beach. When stood on the beach side, apart from sometimes (when tide in) having to take a steep step into knee deep water; the wall is as tall, if not taller than me, so it’s around 5.5 feet. I have photos.

      But this wall and other recent developments also clearly demonstrate the need to legislate and prohibit building anywhere between 6-12 feet of the high watermark and to ensure that the beach between there and the water is public. Over the last 10 years we’re also rapidly losing beach access all over the island. Something needs to be done about this too. Can’t help but mention how saddening it is to be losing the general views of the sea. Seems every single bit of land is being snapped up and developed. I realise this is a good sign for the economy but do we really have to turn this once strikingly beautiful island into a concrete jungle? Even the tourists on their way West often complain that the view of the sea is blocked for the most part on GT side.




      19



      2
      • Anonymous says:

        Sorry my spellcheck didn’t like Ezzard it seems and changed it to Edward!




        6



        0
      • Anonymous says:

        The wall at Frank Sound is several feet beyond the high watermark. Last year when someone raised this there were many naysayers who presumably don’t understand how tides work. If they went back now even if the tide is out there is no denying the clear erosion under the wall for several feet from the tides coming in over the last year. Tear it down.




        6



        0
    • Anonymous says:

      Are they ever? Rarely.




      3



      0
    • Anonymous says:

      The problem with planning is the same problem with most of Government sponsored work departments. Too many people especially at the top that have no idea what to do, no training or education in what they are doing, no experience at even seeing their job done successfully. They are failing but they are also thinking that their job is being done well enough. The best they have ever seen. In a word,Caymankind. Its what the people of these islands are famous for. Its why in the private sector even Caymanians do not want to hire other Caymanians. The real reason that the public don’t want to involve planning in their projects is that it becomes the main problem in getting anything done way beyond the real work of physically building a building.Getting your plans through is an epic project. Getting a electrical inspection done is more like playing a video game against a spoiled 8 year old who will cheat like crazy to make sure you lose. None of these problems will go away until the Culture changes in about another 2 generations. There is no fast or easy fix. To get anything done here requires you to pay the price.




      21



      4

Please include your email address in the form below if you are using your real name. You can use a pseudonym, with or without leaving an email address, or just leave the form blank to be "Anonymous". All comments will be moderated before they are published. Please read the CNS Comment Policy at the top of this page.