The Department of Environment is objecting to the Dart group’s plan to remove beach rock from the shallow coastal waters off Seven Mile Beach, citing potential far-reaching long-term impacts on the natural attraction.

Cabinet has granted Dart Real Estate’s application for the initial trial removal of a small amount of beach rock from the oceanfront property where it hopes to build a new five-star hotel.

Environment officials, in an analysis of the project released after an open records request, cautioned that removing the rocks would likely cause erosion and beach loss in certain areas along Seven Mile Beach. It also warned that allowing a developer to remove a natural feature for aesthetic reasons would set a “dangerous precedent” for the Cayman Islands.

The DoE’s analysis was submitted to Cabinet for consideration before the application was granted.

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Ultimately, Dart hopes to submit a second application to remove rock spanning a half-kilometer of coastline in front of the site, north of the Kimpton Seafire Resort. It believes the excavation is necessary to create a more comfortable water entry for hotel guests and a deal with a five-star operator, understood to be the Four Seasons, is said to hinge to some extent on the rocks being removed.

Both the trial and the broader application are opposed by the Department of Environment.

The department in its seven-page analysis, released after a Freedom of Information request by environmental groups Save Cayman and Sustainable Cayman, said “coastal retreat” was inevitable if the rocks were removed and warned the trial removal of rock samples would not provide relevant information on the destabilizing impact of the wider removal of beach rock.

“Previous studies undertaken have consistently advised against lowering or removing the beachrock in this location due to the de-stabilising effect on the beach to the north which is being ‘anchored’ by the rock and the beach running parallel to the beachrock,” it states.

In a letter of response, Dart Real Estate president Jackie Doak said the developer was a conscientious steward of the environment and that the rock removal was not an “all or nothing proposal.” It said it had submitted the coastal works application for the trial to gather additional information so all parties could make an informed decision.