Conservation council questions music festival site approval

Advice from environment body was not considered

Land north of the Kimpton Seafire hotel is cleared in May at the site of the KAABOO festival. - Photo: Mark Muckenfuss

The National Conservation Council is questioning why its advice was not considered before the Dart group was granted planning permission for an event site that will host a major music festival next year.

The council had recommended the application be initially restricted to one year, with numerous conditions attached, including a requirement to produce an environmental management plan.

None of that advice made it to the agenda papers for the Central Planning Authority’s meeting, however, and the board granted general approval for a festival site.

Now the council has written to the planning department seeking an explanation for the oversight and asking for the application to be reconsidered.

The request is likely to fall on deaf ears, however. Haroon Pandohie, director of the Department of Planning, told the Cayman Compass the council had missed the deadline to submit its recommendations. He said there was no scope for the advice to be reconsidered at this stage.

The Dart group appeared before the board in May to give details of the plan, which includes space for nearly 2,000 vehicles as well as some landscaping of the site, close to the Kimpton resort. The site will host the KAABOO music festival, which will bring bands including the Chainsmokers, Duran Duran and Counting Crows to the island next year. The two-day event will be held in February for at least the next three years, and the site could also be used for other major events and concerts, Jackie Doak, president of Dart Realty, said at the meeting.

In a letter to the planning department, John Bothwell, secretary to the National Conservation Council, indicated that the CPA was legally required to consider its advice before granting approval. He notes that the council provided a “screening opinion” indicating that the application would not require a full Environmental Impact Assessment. But he said it had also provided a detailed analysis of the application, along with recommendations, which should have been considered.

He adds that the CPA’s final decision letter refers to the wrong parcel numbers and suggests that this oversight will mean the application has to be reconsidered.

“As you are aware, Section 41 of the National Conservation Law requires the CPA to consult with the NCC prior to giving any approval or undertaking likely to adversely impact the environment, and to take the advice of the NCC into account,” Mr. Bothwell wrote in a letter to Mr. Pandohie, published with the agenda papers for next week’s conservation council meeting.

“We therefore look forward to an immediate substantive response from the CPA on why this statutory requirement was not fulfilled in relation to this application and confirmation that, in rectifying the incorrect Decision Letter, the CPA will be provided with the NCC’s full submission to allow the statutory consultation requirement to be fulfilled.”

In response to questions from the Compass, Mr. Pandohie suggested the council had missed two deadlines for submission of their recommendations.

He said the comments should have been filed by April 20 to make it on to the agenda papers but the council missed both this date and an extended deadline of May 7, failing to file their advice till May 10.

“We unfortunately could not include the received comments in the agenda for the May 16, 2018 meeting, for consideration by the CPA, as the meeting agenda had been finalized, released, and disseminated via the department’s website on May 9, 2018,” he said in an emailed response.

The council had recommended that planning permission be limited to one year and be subject to an environmental management plan, including methodologies and assessments mitigating environmental impacts. It also asked for a “vegetated buffer” between the event site and parking areas and nearby residential areas and beaches, as well as a restriction on the type of events that could be held during turtle nesting season, which runs from May to November.

The council has also raised questions about previous works at the site.

Dart released a brief statement saying all works taking place at the site north of the Kimpton Seafire resort had been approved by the CPA.

“Dart Real Estate undertakes a sustainable approach to each project with which it is involved and any event held at the site will need the requisite approval.”