Public concern over South Sound project

The Government has responded to public concern about a development along the coast in South Sound near OldCrewe Road.

In question is an area of land belonging to a subdivision project which is being filled along the coastline without apparent mitigation measures being put in place, such as a silt screen to prevent sediment from entering the ocean.

Permanent Secretary (Acting) of the Ministry of District Administration, Planning, Agriculture and Housing (DAPAH), Ms. Jennifer Ahearn, acknowledges the public concern and said she is investigating the matter.

Ms Ahearn confirmed the work currently under way is part of a subdivision project approved in December 1999. When the project was approved a condition was included that a 50 foot mangrove buffer be retained on the coastline to assist in storm protection. This permission was subsequently modified by the Central Planning Authority to allow the applicant to fill the property to the edge of the mangrove that was retained, with the condition that a retaining wall be constructed on the in-land side of the mangrove buffer in order to protect the buffer and contain the sediment from the fill work.

The subdivision’s approval and the location of the retaining wall were based on the boundaries shown in a registered survey the applicant had done in September 1999.

Ms Ahearn said: ‘All applications for planning permission on coastal properties are required to submit a survey no more than 6 months’ old showing the mean high water mark (MHWM), and the Planning Department and CPA use these surveys to confirm setbacks for approved development.’

Ms Ahearn also noted that aerial photography from 1999 and mid-2004 shows that the extent of the mangrove on the site appears to correspond to the mean high water mark that was registered on the survey.

Consequently, the line of the section of the wall that had been previously constructed was well inland of the seaward edge of the mangroves that existed when planning permission was granted.

‘We understand that the work going on now is a continuation of the wall that was already commenced,’ Ms Ahearn said.

However, since 1999 when the survey was filed there have been severe weather events including Hurricane Ivan in 2004 and most recently Hurricane Dean which may have damaged the mangrove buffer and changed the coastline.

Ms. Ahearn said ‘Now that the mangrove has disappeared from the area where the retaining wall is being constructed it is no longer inland, but on the coast. However, this is still within the registered property boundaries and, therefore, not subject to a coastal works license.’

Although planning permission for the site was approved in 1999, the Ministry of Planning admits there have been significant changes to the coastline since that time.

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