South Sound injunction settled

Objectors to the dumping of fill into South Sound in Grand Cayman have dropped their injunction bid against the work.

The Protect South Sound group said it settled legal proceedings with development company RC Estates so the organisation can concentrate its efforts instead on an upcoming appeal of the project’s planning permission.

According to a news release issued by the Protect South Sound group on Thursday, an agreement has been reached between the group and RC Estates to end injunction proceedings that were before the Grand Court.

“A decision was made to seek to settle the recent proceedings to allow ‘Protect South Sound’ to concentrate all its efforts, resources and manpower on the forthcoming appeal of RC Estates’ original planning permission to the Planning Appeals Tribunal,” a statement from the group read.

Work on the reclamation of land at South Sound has resumed, after the two parties came to an agreement on the injunction bid Monday, a day before Grand Court Justice Charles Quin was to deliver a decision on the matter.

“The initial aim of the group to stop the dumping of aggregate beyond the disputed coastal boundary of South Sound was achieved and by taking the action we did we have allowed time for there to be a proper process up to that appeal. We have elicited concessions from the developer that will reduce environmental impacts should he restart his project before that appeal is heard.

“In this context we are looking forward to an early hearing before the [Planning Appeals Tribunal] where all matters relevant to this planning permission can be considered,” the statement continued.

The application for an injunction stemmed from the Central Planning Authority’s approval in August of developer Rene Hislop’s application to move an approved seawall about 50 feet south and reclaim about 2,000 feet of land.

Work on the land reclamation project began last month, during which trucks began dumping fill into the sound.

Concerned for the safety of young mangroves just offshore, the Protect South Sound objectors obtained a temporary injunction preventing the project from proceeding any further.

Work at the site halted while the temporary injunction was in place, but resumed this week after the two parties came to an agreement outside court.

The Protect South Sound group said the decision to settle with the developer was “very difficult”, but the objectors felt it was “necessary at this time for Protect South Sound to focus its resources on having the Central Planning Authority’s 15 August decision heard and hopefully reverse by the Planning Appeal Tribunal”.

Katrina Jurn of Protect South Sound filed a notice of appeal of the planning approval on 11 September to bring the matter before the Planning Appeals Tribunal.

“While this senseless and potentially unlawful destruction of the marine environment again reminds us of the desperate need for the National Conservation Law, in this case, with existing laws, the government is empowered to take action to prevent the destruction of Cayman’s marine environment on what is very likely Crown land.

“However, the attorney general has thus far failed to take action in response to requests from the Department of Environment and MLAs to request an injunction to halt filling by RC Estates to allow time for the outstanding legal issues surrounding high water mark and fixed boundaries to be resolved,” the group said in its news release.

Opponents of the development project argue that the Planning Authority broke with a long-standing precedent when it agreed with RC Estates’ argument that a coastal boundary can be permanently “fixed” by a survey. The objectors argue that if this precedent is allowed to stand, it would enable landowners to commission surveys, for example, after storms dump sand on the beach, to fix their boundaries beyond their properties’ typical mean high water mark and reclaim land once the sand washes away.

The legal point in question had centred around whether the objectors are correct in their contention that a property’s coastal boundary changes along with natural erosion or accretion, or whether, as Mr. Hislop argues, that once a boundary is fixed by a survey, the owner maintains control over the property even if it becomes inundated by the sea.

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