Phasing plan needed for sub-division in wetlands

| 04/05/2021 | 24 Comments
Mangroves (Photo by Omari Rankine)

(CNS): A proposed subdivision for more than 430 homes that encroaches into the Central Wetland Mangroves, which is a critical habitat for the future survival of Grand Cayman’s natural resources and ecosystems, has not been refused by the Central Planning Authority, despite the serious environmental threats it poses, but is now subject to a phasing plan. The planning department said the Lookout Ltd application has been adjourned to allow the developer time to submit the plan and make some minor changes to the design.

During last week’s hearing the National Trust, which is a direct neighbour to the proposed project, urged the CPA to place conditions on this application, drawing a clear line in the ‘swamp’ beyond which no future development would go.

Arguing about the desperate need to stop any further encroachment into mangrove habitat or fragmentation of the central wetlands, representatives from the Trust spelled out the importance of this ecosystem to the entire island’s natural marine and terrestrial resources.

Given that the application by Lookout Ltd is of such magnitude that it will require a large amount of land to be set aside for public purposes, the Trust proposed that the developers realigned their project so that all of that public use land would be the mangrove area to the north of the currently gazetted, but as yet not built, extension of the East-West Arterial Road, which currently dissects the site.

They said that this would serve the purpose of protecting the habitat, prevent fragmentation and serve as a signal that this would be where development on mangrove habitat ends.

While the controversial road extension is subject to an environmental impact assessment before it is finalised, the Trust said that previous negations with government had resulted in the proposed road route being pushed further south to avoid dissecting the wetland area and cutting through Trust land.

But not all of the land in the mangroves belongs to the Trust.

It was clear during the hearing that CPA Chairman A. L. Thompson was reluctant to send any signal about curbing development, even in this highly sensitive environment, because doing so might devalue the land that people owned, some of which he suggested was dry land and not all mangrove.

However, the Trust experts explained that land has value beyond its potential for development, and wetlands in particular because of their carbon sequestering possibilities. The Trust outlined some of the type of schemes being introduced all over the world where cash is paid to preserve such habitat by governments as part of blue and green economies. This point did appear to find favour with some other members of the authority.

Nevertheless, the subdivision found support among the CPA members because, they said, this was the type of development that actually benefited Caymanians. These subdivision lots would provide homes for ordinary people and young Caymanians who could no longer afford to live in the condo complexes that were part of the applications they usually dealt with.

During the hearing the developers said that the application had been made for the entire site to show its future goals. But ultimately the full build out was planned over a 20-year period and the part of the site near the proposed ETH and the wetland area was the last part. As a result, they were happy with the idea of a phased rollout.

However, it remains unclear whether or not the landowner will ultimately be given permission to move into the central wetlands and whether the CPA is willing to consider drawing the line in the swamp requested by the Trust.

Given the recent change in government and the PACT’s position on the environment, climate change, sustainability and development, there is an expectation that the membership of the CPA will be changed in the not to distant future, and new policies could be rolled out regarding planning.

Nevertheless, this application is one of many projects currently going through the planning process that pose significant threats to mangrove habitat around the island. It was also the subject of a letter sent by the Mangrove Rangers, a local NGO committed to the protection of the species, to the new premier, Wayne Panton, urging him to step in and save what is left of all the remaining, threatened mangrove habitat in Grand Cayman.

CNS understands the Rangers are still waiting for a response to their correspondence.

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Category: development, Local News

Comments (24)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Speaking of the environment, when should we expect the Minister of Tourism to be removing the election trash he is yet to clean up from our roadsides?

  2. Political Espionage says:

    Frankly i hope the entire board is replace not just Mr Thompson as he is not the only board member that is conflicted. Already see others jockeying for position and courting potential candidates and the new minister. Corruption has never been compulsory. It is very troubling to see “certain people” driving up and down with representatives of our biggest developer. Very troubling indeed!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Don’t worry, be happy! The new Premier will sort this out in a jiffy. Remember he is the former Minister of the Environment and now the Minister of Climate Change. If anyone can change up the board and sort this mess out it is he.

    • I. B. Hopeful says:

      I hope you are correct in your prediction, Anonymous 6:57 am. We will be waiting for our new Premier to begin running things for the citizens of the Cayman Islands.

  4. Anonymous says:

    The CPA must be replaced in its entirety. The members have been there for tool long and are not working in the interest of us but that of special interest developers, who are here to conquer and destroy. Stop the pillage now. Replace the board ASAP.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I am hoping that one of the main objectives of the new PACT government will be to completely change this board starting with cutting off the head of the snake..

    • Anonymous says:

      Don’t hold your breath. Don’t want you to suffocate.

    • Anonymous says:

      Just the head? Why be half-safe? This is the time to get rid of all the greedies. There must be some honest intelligent people here somewhere.

  6. Anonymous says:

    People don’t understand how this works the current developer isn’t looking to continue this development he is looking to get planning approval to increase his sale price on the property and it will surely be more enticing to potential buyers if planning approval has been given to develop the remaining land in his possession not illegal tho it’s just how it works here it’s like when they clear land and fill it without any plans to develop it themselves it’s easier to sell

  7. Anonymous says:

    Let them eat mangroves.

    • Albert Conolly says:

      You are so ignorant.we have to protect the see how much rain we getting now?

  8. Anonymous says:

    CPA chairman reluctant to send any signal about curbing development. Wow such words of wisdom!
    This bunch never saw any development they did not approve of. Makes you wonder where are we heading with this current board that quite frankly needs to “retire”.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Having A.L.Thompson on the membership (CPA Chairmanship) to evaluate this is simply not ethical. Conflict of interest.

    The fact that he did not recuse himself is a huge indictor… “I’ll protect my financial interests… Screw what is ethical.”.

    I have nothing against Mr Thompson, but him standing up and voting on this, with his interests is abhorrent.

  10. Anonymous says:

    This should be a big fat NO.

    Sell the lots they already have for sale first and then come back when that is done.

    If the current lots aren’t being bought by Caymanians, the new subdivision sure isn’t going to fly.

  11. Anonymous says:

    What do we want? Affordable homes!
    Where do we want them? Nowhere!

    • Anonymous says:

      March into the lookout office in Bodden Town and buy one of their lots today!!!!! They already exist.

      Lots of them.

      Been for sale for over a decade.

      Area now is a dump for trash and a raceway for the dirt bikes.

      Destroy the mangroves, that’s more of what you get.

    • Anonymous says:

      Lakeside is available

  12. Anonymous says:

    This should not be allowed. You ruin it and pave over this island anymore and it’s days are numbered.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Until the composition of the CPA is changed to reflect the interests of the country rather than the few expect destruction of the environment to continue as it has or speed up.

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