Young activists call for managed retreat along 7MB

| 15/12/2023 | 39 Comments
Photo by Ryan McLellan

(CNS): Local activist group Protect Our Future (POF) is calling for a managed retreat along Seven Mile Beach, as well as a change in planning policy to address how developers define the mean high water mark (HWM) and a review of seawalls in the face of more development that they say is threatening their future in the Cayman Islands.

POF is using social media platforms to raise awareness about beach erosion, focusing on the application by developers to demolish the existing Aqua Bay condo complex and redevelop it into a glass tower of at least ten storeys.

“The far-reaching impacts of erosion are evident at the south end of Seven Mile Beach,” POF said in a release about their latest campaign. “The impact of coastal developments and the resulting increasing rate of erosion on our beautiful beaches is far-reaching, including the loss of critical nesting habitat for endangered sea turtles.”

The student activists are also raising the issue of the HWM, which former premier Wayne Panton had tried to address but, as has since been revealed, was met with opposition from Cabinet ministers as well as the developer lobby.

“The current planning regulations requiring a single survey to establish the mean high water mark as the reference point for the coastal building line are not enough,” POF stated. “This is due to the highly dynamic nature of the coastline along Seven Mile Beach, which can change drastically on any given day and even more so over the span of a few months. This change is exacerbated by extensive coastal development.”

The proposal for the eleven-storey project is currently undergoing further scoping opinion by the scientists at the Department of Environment to present to the National Conservation Council, though it has already concluded that it does not need an environmental impact assessment as they know what the problems are.

However, the height, which had been one of the original points of concern for the planning department, may no longer prove to be an impediment to the project as just last month, the government steered an amendment to the planning regulations through parliament that allows rooftop amenities to be added to a property with being counted as an additional floor. According to the application, the Aqua Beach design included a rooftop pool.

The DoE will need to consider what mitigating measures, if any, can be deployed to negate the detrimental impact the project will have on the beach, the sea turtles nesting there and the marine environment in general. The department may direct against planning approval if the main issues cannot be addressed. Lighting, noise, vibrations, erosion, dangerous equipment and many other issues could seriously impact progress in the conservation of turtles in this area of Seven Mile Beach throughout and after construction.

With more than ten storeys of glass frontage, installing turtle-friendly lighting on the grounds alone will not protect the baby turtles from disorientation because of the light that will emanate from inside the apartments. The DoE said this is now one of the biggest threats to turtles, undermining many years of work to bring turtles back from the brink of local extinction.

The department has also warned that if this project is approved, other redevelopment projects will follow, which would increase activity on this area of the beach and compound beach erosion problems and disturbance of marine life.

The $60 million revamp has met with dozens of objections from condo owners at the two neighbouring complexes, Silver Sands and The Palms.

POF said they were concerned that the redevelopment of Aqua Bay would not only fuel beach erosion at the critical nesting beach for sea turtles but also increase traffic and potential accidents for both vehicles and pedestrians in an increasingly congested area.

“The Aqua Bay development is not far from the location where a beloved teacher of ours was critically injured and left with lifelong impairments after being hit while walking his dog along West Bay Road only three years ago,” the students noted.

POF implored developers and planning committees to follow the broad recommendations for a managed retreat on Seven Mile Beach made by the Department of Environment and the National Conservation Council. This would be beneficial to the value of that land, as well as the value and beauty of all the surrounding land and to the Cayman Islands’ future, they noted.

POF said it was critical for Cayman’s future to implement a managed retreat. In addition, there must be a national policy on seawalls when all structures are moved back from the water’s edge as they are rebuilt or repaired.

This message has been the driving force behind the POF campaign, “Coastal Development Erodes Our Future”, the young activists said. “We continue to press the government to take direct action on the rate of development on island and its impact on beach erosion, habitat loss, and mangrove loss.”

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Category: development, Local News

Comments (39)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    The HWM established in the 1980s did not contemplate 10-storey buildings or even buildings being built on the iron shore, eg. FIN. When the government of the day approved 10-storey buildings, that may have been a good time to revisit the established HWM.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I applaud these young people for having more foresight than some of the elected MP’s. Don’t give up on this.

    Another problem that needs addressing is the removal of the seawalls (that should never have received Plannng permission to be erected in the first place), in order for our beaches to return to the way nature intended them to be!

    • Anonymous says:

      How about Dart’s beach cabana!?! Who signed off on that, and are they still at the controls?

      • Anonymous says:

        I’d love to hear your take on how this, or any other cabana, has impacted beach erosion. Please do share, we could all use a good laugh.

        BTW – Who approved Marnie’s wall?

  3. XRebellion says:

    “A huge reason why people feel attracted to and comfortable in historic neighborhoods is not just because of their familiarity and walkability but also because they present urban density at a human scale…. After extensive study of how humans behave in different kinds of environments, Gehl has concluded that the most comfortable building height for urban pedestrians is between 12.5 and 25 meters, or about three to six stories.” 👇

    How about we stop sprawl and democratically stabilise the population with sensible “human-scale” developments that also don’t overwhelm our community infrastructure – rather than greed-driven expensive high-rise coops with parking lot views.

    #EnvironmentFirst 1⃣🌏

    🔴Stop duplicity
    🟠Stop overdevelopment
    🟢Stabilise population

  4. Anonymous says:

    There’re a lot of things these kids could ask for that the government could say yes to. Focus on the little easy wins before going for the big asks. Eg. Glass crusher, styrofoam container and plastic bag ban, hotel recycling, faster energy transition plan

  5. Anonymous says:

    Kudos to these young people. Government after government allows our shoreline, including our beaches, to be eroded. They should all be paying fines for they are all guilty. We need educated, people with gumption who recognize the importance of preserving our shorelines and who cannot be manipulated by the rich, to step up to the plate and run in our next election. God help us.

    • Anonymous says:

      This is not a specialized knowledge or education gap. We need a qualified planning approval process, with criteria that ask these questions in the public good, without exceptions, rather than Cabinet rubber stamps for cash. We also need an ACC and judiciary that will see what’s happening, now and in the past, make investigations and arrests. The worst of Cayman are still in net, scoring own goals.

  6. Anonymous says:

    No one person decided on the HWM in the past. But even if that were true, how many governments have we had since the 1970’s or 1980’s that could have changed the law?

  7. Anonymous says:

    Came here 11 years ago. That beach was immaculate from one end to the other. Now it’s missing for a very long stretch on the south part of the beach. The coral is all dead, the fish are slowly dwindling in numbers. It’s very disheartening to see. This Government was supposed to be environmental, dumps still in shambles, the coast is falling apart and everything is commercial. Sad state of affairs.

    • Anonymous says:

      Governors getting chewed up by mother nature this week too.

    • Anonymous says:

      I arrived in the early 90’s and even then there were issues around the Turner house sea wall and at certain times of the year you could not walk past on the beach. Public Beach and Governor’s Beach were glorious places to spend a Sunday.

      • Anonymous says:

        Those days long gone. This weekend, dog owners with no poop bags allowing fido to dump near people and just kicked sand over it, moronic kite surfers eating up space with no concerns over people already there trying to enjoy a beach day.

  8. Anonymous says:

    The solution is remarkably simple – place a moratorium on all development/re-development on the beach side of west bay road for a number of years, say 20.

    No development on the oceanside of the SMB strip benefits anyone outside perhaps 1-2% of the population, and probably less.

    it only helps the condo owners, the overseas buyers, CIREBA, the developer and maybe a few $ for govt officials with overseas bank accounts. the ‘trickle down’ argument is nonsense and proven over 20 years recently to be utter bs. the mostly foreign imported construciton workers clog up the islands roads, clog up immigration, clog up the island. Any hotel development helps who exactly? Very few caymanian workers, and for whatever thats worth, the trade off in traffic and lack of beach access is simply not worht it.

    instead, with all the genius developers on island, why not ask them to help with infrastructure and spreading out from SMB properly. How many millions do these same very few developers and realtors genuinely need?

    as to managed retreat, i think i saw a unicorn fly by my window…

    • Anonymous says:

      Spit on!, the way to go.

    • Anonymous says:

      no..not a readily feasible plan.
      a lot of these buildings are nearing the end of their usefull life and will have to be replaced.
      whilst not advocating for high rise, they will need to rebuild in the same footprint they have already, which has caused the problem to start with. How do you propose to address that issue?

  9. Anonymous says:

    These are the people you should work with Wayne. NEW BLOOD that CARE FOR CAYMAN.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Yeah buts what in it for me?

  11. Anonymous says:

    Good for them! This is what we need.

  12. Anonymous says:

    hurts to know a celebrated Caymanian went into office specifically to destroy the beaches for greed.

  13. Guido Marsupio says:

    Hope that at least some young Caymanians, interested in the future of the environment, will realize that they will need to go into politics to ensure that there IS a future for the Cayman Islands.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Managed retreat is silly DOE populist jargon. It’s a pipe dream at best and is never going to happen.

    Move on to some real solutions.

    • Anonymous says:

      What are your ‘real solutions’? What are you doing?

    • Anonymous says:

      The solution is to use beach renourishment, which is used all over the world. If Cayman didn’t develop on the coast and in particular the beach, there would be no development here.

      • Anonymous says:

        Pray tell you dont know about the differences in the seabeds in other places as compared to here.

        The natural displacement on the northern end lately shows how futile this plan is.

  15. Anonymous says:

    If you have not done so POF, I suggest you do some research on why the HWM was changed (in the late 70’s or early 80’s I think). Then publish your finding very loudly. It shows what decisions made for short term gain causes over time.
    The decisions being made now, with a severe lack of foresight, will not really be felt for many years. Then, as now, it will be too late to remedy and your children will be raising similar questions.

    • Anonymous says:

      people who inherit an island and thereby have the wealth and property, and politics, would rather sell out and rub elbows with the rich, then have to work for a livingi

      • Anonymous says:

        What BS. The law was changed to favour real estate agents and developers. No elbow rubbing.

  16. Un-Fit says:

    Good luck with this. Our politicians and developers have no interest in the long term beauty and sustainability of Grand Cayman’s premier tourist attraction.

    As long as the tourism model operates on the “Walmart Principle” this wonder of nature exists only to be degraded and abused.

    • Anonymous says:

      The “Walmart principle”.

      whe can also have Kenny Kmart

    • Anonymous says:

      Would say well done to these young people, keep it up and need more to stand up too, regardless of whether the ignorant politicians or developers care. They need to be named and shamed on social media and shown up for what they are in the world, time to stop the hiding and threats of these greedy dictactors!

      Keep it up, it is your future and should be supported by all,the time is up for these prehistoric morons.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Good to see that someone cares about their future.


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