Just days after sealing a deal to buy part of Smith Cove, government is facing calls to purchase another piece of oceanfront real estate to protect it from a planned development.

A private landowner, Cayland Group Ltd., is going before the Central Planning Authority on Wednesday with an outline planning application for a 49-room development, bar and pool in the area designated for a future national park.

The long-discussed but never-enacted plan for Barkers National Park would involve government buying land or partnering with private landowners in the area, including the Dart group, to create a large protected area.

According to the Department of Environment’s analysis of the planning application, among the agenda papers for Wednesday’s meeting, the idea of a national park in that area remains a key goal.

“The DoE recommends that Government seeks to acquire this land with funds from the Environmental Protection Fund,” the Department of Environment submission states.

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“The proposed development of this parcel, and the associated infrastructure that will be required to support it, irreversibly undermines the objectives and vision for a National Park.”

Last week, public outcry over a plan for a small condo development on land abutting Smith Cove prompted government to use the fund to buy that plot of land to protect it for the public.

The Department of Environment’s recommendation is that they do the same for land in the Barkers area, as well as potentially purchasing other lots in the vicinity.

“The proposed development of this parcel, and the associated infrastructure that will be required to support it, irreversibly undermines the objectives and vision for a National Park.”

The plan to make the Barkers area into a national park has been around since the 1990s. The proposed park was even dedicated by Britain’s Prince Edward on a visit to the Cayman Islands in 2003, and signs were put up indicating the area was a national park.

However, the legal powers to create a designated protected area did not exist until the passage of the National Conservation Law, stalling the process. And while government has bought some of the land, there are still several private owners with significant land holdings in the area.

If it wants to proceed with a national park plan, government will have to negotiate purchases or land protection agreements with those owners.

One such longtime landowner is Cayland Group Ltd., which has filed an application to build 24 one-bedroom units, 12 duplexes, a manager’s unit, tiki bar, casual dining bar and pool on its 10-acre coastal lot.

The application would also ultimately involve filling in a pond for car parking, according to the Department of Environment’s analysis.

In its submission to the Central Planning Authority, the landowner argues that since the application is for “outline planning permission,” those concerns do not come into play at this stage, and suggests it is simply asking for the broad concept to be approved before proceeding with a full application.

The Central Planning Authority indicates in its notes that the landowner has been advised of several deficiencies in the plans, including the lack of a recent high-water mark survey.

It also highlights concerns about the proximity to the mangrove buffer zone, vehicle access to the site, and the impact on plans for a future national park.

The Department of Environment, in its submission, also raises concerns that the road infrastructure needed for such a development would be out of keeping with the low-impact vision for a national park.

“The original concept for the proposed park was based on Barkers pristine and isolated location and the diversity of the natural surroundings,” it states.

Quoting from a concept note dating to the 1990s, it states the intent of the park would be to “provide a much needed area for relaxation and eco-friendly, family type activities …. The park would primarily be used for low-impact recreational pursuits for the public in a natural environment …. It is envisioned that there would be limited vehicular access to the park with cars being restricted beyond a certain point.”

The concept note adds that the park could be used for low-impact activities such as snorkeling, fly fishing, bird watching, sailing, windsurfing, picnics and camping, with users asked to pay a fee toward upkeep and monitoring of the area.

It states, “The Barkers National Park would provide a safe, quiet and relaxing sanctuary in a natural environment for families to enjoy for years to come, and would be an area set aside to promote healthy human interaction with nature.”

The Department of Tourism supports the Department of Environment’s analysis, suggesting approval from environment officials should be granted before any such development proceeds.

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  1. I am starting to wonder if this Government are developing the Islands with a plan , or are they just developing for first come basis and who has the deepest pockets .

    I am questioning if the word moritorium is in their vocabulary ? I wonder if they have any foresight and respect in developing the Islands , for future population and natural wild life . Where is the planning Department in all of these developments , or they there just to say you’re approved or denied .

    I think that if this Government continues for another 4 years there wouldn’t be place for human life or wildlife .

  2. Where is National Trust and DOE voice in all these sorts of development ? I think that they didn’t make a comment about Smith Cove till after the work was done .

    We need to remember that after every part of the Islands is developed all we would have is concrete to look at . No natural wildlife sanctuary with any life , because you can’t build and develop wright up to the boundaries of habitats and expect the wildlife to stay .

  3. This government?? Have you seen the development that’s happened in the last 30 years that has been left unchecked?? This government is certainly an arrogant lot, but to put the blame solely on their feet is likely a deliberate attempt to ignore that the prior government that you likely favour was as bad if not worse.

    Barkers has meant to be a national park for over 20 years. But that has been ignored, while Dart has been allowed to run amok, the Ritz built, the building code ruined to allow buildings above the height Royal Palm. That falls squarely on previous administrations.

    One can only hope that this and then the next get their act together to save this pristine piece of land.

  4. I believe the Government, which ever one makes the decision; should walk Hand in Hand with the Dart foundation on this. Government should purchase a park area for the residents, and allow Dart to do and assist with his surrounding beautification planned development. As always he will do a great job which every one will enjoy. I don’t know why some people have this idea that Dart is here to steal every thing from Caymanians. I follow his work closely, and I have only seen good things.