(CNS): A new $177 million development proposal on one of the last vacant parcels on Seven Mile Beach not owned by the Dart group of companies was given the green light by the Central Planning Authority on Wednesday. Watermark is a ten-storey condo project with a commercial building across the road. As the plot is divided by the West Bay Road, the developers propose to include a foot bridge to link the sites. The development, which is close to the Public Beach, includes 54 apartments and twelve swimming pools on the beach side, and a restaurant, fitness-spa centre and 19 guest suites on the inland side.
No objections were filed against the project from nearby neighbours at the Harbour Heights and Avalon complexes, despite a number of objections to The Grove project nearby, which is now underway but had caused considerable controversy among those residents.
However, the Department of Environment did raise concerns about this project and proposed a number of modifications, including issues relating to the plans to excavate and remove sand from the site, posing the risk of beach erosion and a threat to turtle nests in the area.
The DoE warned that plans to remove the beach ridge at the site is a major concern. “Seven Mile Beach is an extremely active beach system and the seaside parcel consists of massive sand reserves. These reserves are important to the resilience of the Seven Mile Beach system and are naturally used to replenish the beach after storms.
“The amount of sand that will result from the excavation for the pools, foundations and underground parking will likely be too great a quantity to be placed back on-site and into the beach system. Once excavated and removed from the beach system, these sand reserves can never be recovered, making the beach system increasingly more vulnerable to erosion,” the DoE said in its comments, adding that increasing the setback would leave the ridge intact.
Because the proposed development is located on a very active turtle nesting beach, the department urged the CPA, if it granted planning permission, to make turtle-friendly lighting part of that approval. The DoE also said that construction should not start until after the nesting season at the end of November.
It is not clear if the CPA required the developers to follow the DoE recommendations or when the project is due to commence, but what will be the third ten-storey project on Grand Cayman has now been approved.