Road appeal dismissed

It could be the end of the road for a group of women protesting the closure of part of West Bay Road in a land-swap deal between Dart and government after their latest legal challenge failed.

The Court of Appeal, in a judgment published Friday, upheld Justice Alexander Henderson’s decision that the original legal challenge was made too late to be considered on its merits.

The women, members of a civic action group known as the Concerned Citizens Group, argued that the people of the Cayman Islands had enjoyed a right of way over the coastal road, with views of Seven Mile Beach, for 50 years.

They claimed the deal to close the road, easing the way for Dart Realty to build a new hotel, was a violation of their rights and freedoms under the constitution.

Justice Henderson ruled that the validity of that argument could not be considered by the court because the challenge was out of time.

The Court of Appeal agreed, saying there was no reasonable explanation for why the challenge had not been brought within the legally mandated time frame of 12 months from when the decision to close the road was taken.

Dart Realty welcomed the ruling on Friday, saying it had spent more than US$100 million on completing the Esterley Tibbetts Highway extension and construction of the Kimpton Hotel.

Alice Mae-Coe, the spokesperson for the four women challenging the ruling, declined to comment.

The only option left for the group, if they wish to continue their challenge, would be to appeal to the Privy Council in London.

The women received legal aid for their initial case but the appeal was funded out of their own pockets and from community donations.

The appeal, heard earlier this month, focused on whether the judge was correct to rule that the clock started ticking, in terms of the 12-month time limit, on Dec. 15, 2011, with the signing of the National Roads Authority agreement, the first official commitment between government and Dart to close the road.

The women had argued that the details were unclear at that time and the real start date was in March, 2013, when the closure was confirmed in the Cayman Islands Gazette, the official government publication.

Both Justice Henderson, in the original hearing, and the Appeals Court panel, in the second hearing, determined that the decision to close the road was taken in December 2011 and that the women and the wider community were aware of this within days of the agreement being signed.

Sir Bernard wrote, “I can find nothing in these matters to affect the judge’s conclusion that the decision to close the affected road occurred at the latest with the execution of the NRA Agreement on 15 December, 2011 and that the actual gazetting and closure of part of the road on 13 March, 2013 merely constituted the working out of that decision.”