The Central Planning Authority’s decision to approve the Dart group’s plans for a festival site without considering environmental implications may not be legal, according to Gina Ebanks-Petrie, director of the Department of Environment.
Ms. Ebanks-Petrie said the National Conservation Law compels the authority to take environmental considerations on board.
Despite this, the conservation council will not seek to appeal the decision.
At its quarterly meeting Wednesday, council members expressed concern that its advice on Dart’s application had not been considered. They opted to write to the planning department reminding them that the council’s advice has to be taken into account as a matter of law, and to discuss new procedures to ensure their recommendations were not ignored in the future.
The council had suggested that planning permission for the event site north of the Kimpton, which will host the KAABOO music festival next year, initially be restricted to one year, with numerous conditions including an environmental management plan. But the advice was not put before the planning authority. When the council questioned this, they were told they had missed the deadline for their comments to be included on the CPA agenda. Dart’s application was approved without the recommended environmental conditions attached.
Ms. Ebanks-Petrie, speaking at Wednesday’s council meeting, said neither the council or the DoE was made aware of a hard deadline for submission of advice.
“Unfortunately it [the development] has significant implications that are now not going to be taken on board. This is an active turtle nesting area and we have no planning permission requirement that mentions anything about nesting or has any kind of mitigation measures.”
Colleen Stoetzel, the planning department’s representative on the council, said the conservation body had missed three deadlines to submit the advice and questioned how long planning officials could reasonably be expected to wait for comments.
Ms. Ebanks-Petrie acknowledged there had been delays getting sign off from all council members for the advice and “screening opinion” drafted by her department. But she insisted the advice had arrived in sufficient time to be included on the agenda.
“My concern is that legally the CPA is obligated to consult with the council and take its advice into account,” she said.
They had the information for six clear days. I do not understand why it was not considered.”
She said a year-long planning approval would have presented an opportunity to measure the impact of the noise and lighting on a nearby turtle nesting beach and data collected could have armed the council and planning authorities with vital information to propose mitigation measures in future.
The council voted to introduce a new internal policy that when its members do not respond within a set time frame for applications that require their advice, their silence can be taken as tacit approval of the position taken by the rest of the members. In cases where the council is collectively unable to meet deadlines set by the planning department, the council suggested the CPA would have to wait until they had a chance to do so.
Dart said in a statement that it would seek to meet with the DoE to address the concerns about its application in the coming weeks.