Government grab for land

I read with interest and concern your leading article ‘Public spaces offered’ (Compass, 7 November, 2006) and your editorial piece the following day.

The need for public spaces that will serve the communities that surround them is undeniable.

The overwhelming popularity of Cayman’s public beaches and some of the newly established parks are a testament to that fact.

The way in which such places are managed and maintained is of greater concern, however.

The frequent beach clean-ups reflect an unfortunate and unpleasant trait of these islands of a prevalent lack of respect for the environment.

The scene at the Dart Family Park in George Town on any given Sunday morning is one of piles of garbage sitting on overflowing receptacles that are not emptied after the Saturday events. In this case the cause is a lack of effective management since the users of the facilities have no options but to use what is provided – with the results that I have just described.

The laws requiring public spaces to be set aside in sub-divisions are a good thing since they put the public land in the heart of the communities they are designed to serve.

The fact that many of the plots have been left to mother nature’s ways is probably more down to the fact that such plots are not marked out as such (a keen eye, a trip to Lands and Survey and much patience will reveal where they are), and the developers have not improved said plots for the benefit of the public.

I would guess that most residents do not know where the nearest public plot is which is why they are not being used. It’s no wonder that they are the way that they are.

The proposed land-grab, coupled with the redistribution of wealth to the owners of the larger tracts the government has identified (or not, as the case may be) will serve only to remove these spaces from the communities that the existing legislation was designed to serve.

By removing set-aside areas we will be faced with totally saturated neighbourhoods, along with infrastructure not designed to cope with the new developments.

I trust the legal-minded folk will scrutinise the legality of such a proposal, and that the politicians might point out exactly where in the PPM Manifesto does it describe such a policy?

Please don’t invent unnecessary laws until you have finished your stated to-do list. (The PPM Manifesto itself is hard to find, given the demise of the party’s website…)

I respectfully suggest that the Government do this: Take the free land on offer for the new Government building project, release that $4 million (estimated) from the budget to identify, publicise, clean up, and develop the existing public use areas, and then enable the communities to make it happen.

I’m sure that if you make enough resources available the residents would be more than happy to do the work.

All we need are some weed-whackers, garbage cans, and a swing-set. The rest will take care of itself in those communities that have a genuine interest in improving the quality of life for themselves and their neighbours.

If the Government does pursue its intended course of action then perhaps I should ask for them to give back the public space known as Smith Cove – land given to public use by my forebears, but which fits your criteria of being a ‘smaller piece of land’ that is also a known area ‘where illegal drug trade is taking place.’ I would never do that, but it does give me cause for concern when I look out of my window over another rather pleasant piece of public space adjacent to my home where people walk their pets and boys come to fish, and I wonder what plans the LoGB has in store for me?

Cayman is a treasure trove of wonderful places to get out and about – look for them and you will find them. Only please don’t forget to take you litter home with you or place it in the receptacles provided.

Ben Webster

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