Planning law needs to support conservation law

| 05/09/2019 | 27 Comments
Cayman News Service
Vital mangroves cleared for development

(CNS): As government reviews the National Development Plan and the planning law and regulations, Department of Environment (DoE) Director Gina Ebanks-Petrie says that changes to planning legislation were always needed to help support the goals of the National Conservation Law. But there are fears in the community that not only is government going to gut the conservation law but also that future changes to planning laws will not support the needs of the NCL.

Despite claims by the premier and others that parts of the conservation law are undermining development in Cayman, the reality is that there has never been more construction on the islands as there is at present. And the DoE has recommended environmental impact assessments on only 1% of projects since the law was implemented. Most of those were roads, where the National Roads Authority had not given any justifiable reasons why they wanted to cut through untouched pristine habitat.

However, the DoE is concerned that if the fundamental challenges with planning legislation are not addressed, even if the NCL is not watered down after this current review, it still will not be able to protect the islands’ dwindling natural resources as it was intended to do.

“The introduction of the NCL, which is a conservation law, not an environmental law, was always meant to be implemented alongside changes to the planning law,” Ebanks-Petrie told CNS.

She explained that the NCL already has limitations, but when planning legislation leaves windows of opportunities for developers to clear land in preparation for a development, even before they get planning permission, the conservation law cannot be effective. When land is cleared before the DoE gets a chance to give input, then it’s too late; the vegetation cannot be replaced.

When the planning law was written, no consideration was given to the environment, so there is nothing under the planning law to prevent the removal of an endangered species. Even if someone now faces sanction under the NCL for doing so, no fine can put the vegetation back.

The Central Planning Authority must now consider input from the DoE before approving or rejecting planning applications, but how much weight the members give to those considerations when they are making decisions is difficult to gauge. While planning meetings are open when applications are presented and objectors give their input, the deliberations and decisions are done behind closed doors.

The CPA does sometimes require developers to follow DoE recommendations about the environment. However, it’s not always easy to tell if the environmental conditions imposed on an application are actually followed.

While the public is often quick to criticise the DoE for not preventing land clearance or set-back variations for oceanfront developments or other issues, their input and recommendations may not have been applied or even considered.

The director believes the planning law has to work in tandem with the NCL if there are to be any real improvements in land management that allows development to continue in a sustainable way but helps preserve flora and fauna on land that is not set aside directly for conservation.

The government seems keen to welcome the possibility that Cayman’s population could top 100,000 within the next ten years, but as most development targets the very wealthy, providing homes for low-paid workers as well as trying to protect the environment is likely to be increasingly challenging unless there are radical changes to the planning law.

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Category: development, Land Habitat, Local News, Science & Nature

Comments (27)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    People continue to ruin the only world we have for as much money as they can possibly get, but yet what good will all that money be to an extinct human race?

  2. Ron Ebanks says:

    I believe that the Government and Planning Department should have considered conservation in the development of the Islands long years ago. NO consideration were ever thought of the Wildlife in the development , pretty soon there will be no wildlife if they don’t address it now .

  3. Anonymous says:

    ” input and recommendations may not have been applied [for] or even considered” THIS.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Are ALL of our politicians for sale?

    • Ron Ebanks says:

      9:31am yes and I think it’s not only the politicians .
      How can someone support and continue to support the politicians that are doing most things wrong ? Or not doing anything for the Islands or the people . Think about them all.

  5. Anonymous says:

    The D.O.E. is constantly hamstrung by financial constraints put on it by Cabinet through the Ministry that oversees it. They do not have enough Conservation Enforcement Officers in the field to enforce laws that are already on the books. The laws are broken daily by developers and poachers, both with their own agenda. There is no way to adequately cover the transgressions that take place without more man power. Saying that, though, what D.O.E. really needs it a legal department with in itself to represent issues that arise daily that contravene the laws set out by the government. Right now the Director is running from one fire to the next trying to protect the environment from proposals to planning that are put forward by unscrupulous developers and their cronies. Get D.O.E. a competent legal team to take the heat off the Director so she can focus on environmental issues such as climate change, invasive species and vanishing species instead of court challenges to planning proposals.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Ask yourselves who previously owned the land that developers have bought, and by many opinions, have destructed. I suspect it was owned by Caymanians……..i rest my case.

    • Anonymous says:

      Does it matter who owned the land….. or who owns it now? If an activity is going to adversely affect the environment it should not be allowed!

      • Anonymous says:

        Yes, it does 9.18am because if they never sold it to developers, it wouldn’t be built on!

        • Anonymous says:

          So you blame the seller instead of the one who does the dirtywork? If the “developers” had their way there wouldn’t be anything left of our wildlife! We can have sensible development without eliminating the wildlife, but we need new leadership.

          • Anonymous says:

            To a certain extent, yes, 6.06pm I do blame the seller. Without his ownership the buyer seems to be able to do as he likes. No developer is going to invest millions of $ without the surety, prior to this investment, that his planning application is going to be approved. I am on your side regarding the environment but you all have experienced enough over the years of developers and what’s becoming of the island, yet still the $ rules your thinking. No good passing the buck and blame planning teams and developers, you, the landowner, were the start of these developments. That’s the cold hard truth of it.

            • Anonymous says:

              2:05, When a developer builds a 50 storey building within a few blocks of where you live I would not blame anyone for selling.
              Yes, I blame the planning teams for approving such a development. The $$$ rules my thinking as does the quality of my life related to where I live.

          • Anonymous says:

            If I contract out a murder I’m still culpable.

  7. Stop Destroying Cayman says:

    This government needs to be stopped! It’s population expansionist ideology is nothing short of criminal and is having far reaching and detrimental consequences and effects to this island and also to the social fabric of our society. You want this to stop then you must stop listening and supporting their idiotic ideas and self serving agendas, stop voting for those who we know are creating this path and road to ruin and destruction. It’s not hard simply pull the plug on them!

    • Anonymous says:

      Bang on 7:34. The population expansionist ideology is insane on a dinky island.
      100,000 plus people the goal? Why can nobody see that this figure will result in a corresponding decline in the quality of our life on Grand Cayman. How will a 50 storey building enhance the quality of our life’s? Do we want to concrete over nearly the whole island?

      Really believe the time has come for a political Green Party because too many people seem to have lost perspective on where we are heading.

    • Anonymous says:

      I totally agree poster at 7:34. Now with global warming, the deterioration of the environment and all that goes with that it is idiotic to grow the population by importing more people. More people will mean more houses and businesses, schools, vehicles etc. , and all of these things are bad for those of us who already call Cayman home. It will mean destroying the little bit of natural resources that we now have. I have no issue with the population being increased by natural births which as the records will show is manageable. However to pick up an additional 35/40 thousand ( depending on what the population is now) persons and plant them in Cayman within a few years will negatively impact all of us living here. For the sake of our sanity and well being I beg this government to really put the brakes on and have honest holistic discussions that goes beyond the thought process of having more on this issue. Sometimes more is not better! As it is now we can hardly get into town from the eastern districts in the morning and back home in the evenings, once we get in there is no place to park and we cannot even think of leaving the cars at home and taking a bus, with these lawless drivers darting in and out of traffic. The landfill is overflowing, the crime is slowly increasing and even the waters in certain areas are becoming risky to venture in. Please. Try to properly manage what we have before filling Cayman up to where it will be totally unmanageable and everything is lost. The Deputy Premier will gladly go back to his picturesque location on Cayman Brac as Ms. juilie will probably do as well. I guess the Premier will have no problem moving on as well but I wonder if all of their supporters in cabinet, backbench and otherwise , his business associates etc. etc., will be happy to screw up Grand Cayman then shake the dirt from their feet and depart. If so we will have no problem removing all of you come 2021.

  8. Anonymous says:

    government reviews the National Development Plan and the planning law and regulations.

    “Reviews” and Dismantle are too different words with two entirely different meanings.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Our environment simply MUST come first!! If the environment does not prevail there will be nothing left for the greedy developers to greedily develop! Why on earth can’t they realize this? How short sighted!!

  10. Anonymous says:

    Two words – ‘Never happen.’ This is two totally opposed sets of priorities that cannot ever be reconciled. At the end of the day money will always talk loudest and the environment will get f***ed.

  11. Anonymous says:

    This is an excellent article, CNS.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Actually, it’s the other way round.

    • Anonymous says:

      Leave it to the developers and they will destroy our children’s future.

      Developers “OWN” the.UDP / PPM GOVERNMENT.

      • Anonymous says:

        Children who are brought up in a third world culture(like Cayman has) already don’t have much of a future in the future. If the past is all you know then its the only place you will grow.

    • Anonymous says:

      The developers I know on island have all been doing great financially the last few years.


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