FIN development project (material photo)

(CNS): Court rulings in the judicial review of the dispute between the National Protection Council and the Central Planning Office have not shifted the balance between development and conservation in favor of the environment. Despite inaccurate claims by some developers, judgment We have only confirmed the NCC’s existing authority to place orders in very limited and specific circumstances, and to date it has been used in less than a quarter of planning applications.

“Since the National Conservation Act was unanimously passed by Congress in 2013, the NCC has consistently urged government agencies to reject proposals that could adversely affect designated protected areas or critical habitats for protected species. ,” said the NCC. Chairman McFarlane Connolly told CNS. “What the ruling made clear is that government agencies, including the Central Planning Agency, are acting illegally when they choose not to follow these instructions.”

Many conservationists in the Cayman Islands are gravely concerned that current law still tilts in favor of development, but the court’s ruling suggests that development is in some way threatened. There is a proliferation of misinformation on social media that suggests that

A local environmental activist amplified caymansaid that overdevelopment and culturally and ecologically irresponsible planning and design were not stopped by protection laws and that this latest ruling had not changed anything.

“Development always tilts in favor of developers,” he told CNS. “Even with conservation laws, there is no way to stop bulldozers from clearing mangroves, nor is there a way to prevent him from granting exemptions from the CPA for top-notch setbacks that lead to unsustainable projects.”

He added: It looks like more concrete is being poured as people demand to be more protective of the environment and end this unsustainable situation, especially to protect mangroves and beaches. ”

Harleston, like many activists, believes that conservation laws are not working well and that the approach to development needs to change dramatically, especially given the climate emergency we are currently facing. I’m here.

“Stop giving concessions to luxury developers, use that money for the public good, acquire remaining coastal land, create green jobs in beach parks, replant native plants, We need to stop erosion,” Harleston said. We always want the cultural, economic and ecological needs of the Cayman people to take precedence over the profit motives of the developers, without exception, in all planning and design decisions. ”

Problem of runaway development was the central problem of 2021 election, but so far not much has been done to stop development. Few are truly sustainable, and some pastors central mangrove swampJust this week, the Treasury Department said it had raised more than $18 million more than expected in stamp taxes as an unsustainable real estate boom continues to spur further development that encroaches on dwindling natural resources. clarified.

Although the government acquired more land to formally place have public protection, reached 11% of the land on the three islands this year, but the reality is that privately owned land left undeveloped has been sold to developers. Experts say we should aim about 30% Instead of land that should be protected, increasingly pristine, to meet demand from wealthy investors abroad and foreign workers seeking property to secure points for obtaining permanent residency. are under threat of being wiped out in their primary habitat.

Prime Minister Wayne Pantone said on Radio Cayman on Friday that land acquired by the government and formally protected by the Cabinet cannot be developed. However, the NCC has no powers outside protected areas, and even within protected areas its power to curb development is limited within the planning laws.

The NCC may only direct plans or other relevant agencies when critical habitat within a protected area or the habitat of a protected species is threatened by a planning application that does not comply with the law. increase. So if a future project is planned for a seaside, even a marine park, unless the developer breaks the high water mark setback or proposes to remove the iron shore, the NCC will have her CPA plan You cannot order permission to be denied.

The NCC’s authority is limited to direct threats to protected habitat or species that cannot be mitigated. This is similar to the case of the bogeysand planning application, which is the center of the lawsuit. His NCC directive that the CPA should decline the planning permit was issued because the project proposed demolishing an already-destroyed structure currently underwater in the marine park and building a larger one. I was.

The plan offered no high water mark setbacks at all, nor a way to rebuild safely, or to rebuild with the same footprint without directly endangering marine habitats. With no means available, the NCC pointed the way.

speak in cayman compass Crighton Properties’ Dale Crighton said the government could face lawsuits if the new interpretation of the law impacted land values, echoing posts on social media and WhatsApp groups over the past few weeks. suggested that However, there was no new interpretation of the law.

There will be no change in the ability of beachfront landowners to build luxury condominiums and other projects as long as they comply with existing planning laws. No ownership or development rights have been tampered with, as Crighton himself suggests: South Sound’s FIN Projectwas built very close to the sea and caused many accidents environmental concerns during its construction.

Nonetheless, Mr Crighton said the DoE made sensible comments on the application and wanted to maintain the status quo. “In my experience as a developer, the DoE and other departments typically make sensible comments, and the plan has taken care to ensure that their comments and recommendations are taken into account,” he said. Told.

The DoE, on behalf of the NCC, reviews most planning applications, provides detailed evidence-based comments on projects, and provides landowners with improved development, increased sustainability, and protection from storms and floods. We provide advice to help protect coastal assets.

Conolly explained that out of 3,094 applications reviewed since 2016, the NCC dictated approval conditions in only 62 applications, representing 2% of all applications reviewed.

“The number of times the NCC directed denial of planning applications was even lower, with only 7 out of 5 applications denied by the NCC. In the limited cases where the NCC has directed denials, these applications have failed to reduce adverse impacts on protected areas or critical habitats of protected species.

In most situations pristine habitat Or if endangered species like banana orchids or silvery thatch trees are endangered, the NCC can’t really stop development.

Learn more about the Conservation Act, the NCC’s actual powers, and judgments in judicial review. NCC website.

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