Haroon Pandohie, director of Department of Planning, spoke about the new draft of a Grand Cayman Development Plan at a Road Safety Conference earlier this month. - Photo: Spencer Fordin

Government is seeking to help shape the future growth of Grand Cayman with its first Development Plan in more than 20 years.

The plan aims to manage the conflict between environment and development and to ensure that a high quality of life is maintained as the island’s population grows.

It will also look at the likely infrastructure demands, including new schools, roads and potential public transport improvements required in the coming years.

Topics as diverse as building heights on Seven Mile Beach, traffic flows in and around George Town, and stormwater management across Grand Cayman are all factored into the mix.

A draft Strategic Planning Statement will be released for public input Thursday morning. That document sets out the broad objectives of the plan. It will be used to help craft detailed plans for each specific area of Grand Cayman, along with a general plan and a new zoning map for the entire island.

The introduction to the document states that it is intended to be a “long-range comprehensive plan” used to guide physical development and the overall use of land in Grand Cayman.

It notes that Cayman’s population has grown by 8,000 people in the last five years alone and that significant new development of homes, hotels, offices and highways is taking place to support that growth.

Haroon Pandohie, Cayman’s director of planning, told the Cayman Compass it is important that this kind of growth does not take place in an ad hoc manner.

He said Grand Cayman was at a crucial stage in its development, and government, in collaboration with the people, needs to shape how that development takes place.

He highlighted pressures on the road network, the redevelopment of older properties along Seven Mile Beach, and the impact of growing development on the environment and public open space as key areas that the plan will seek to tackle. The new plan will also include a “capital improvement program,” highlighting what upgrades will be needed to public amenities.

Mr. Pandohie said, “You have a growing population, growing infrastructure demands and pressures: roads, availability of classrooms, other public amenities. It is going to be crucial that we plan for public open space, because otherwise you could have a very densely populated island without the necessary recreational outlets.”

The nexus between where people live and how people move is one of the key considerations. The familiar morning traffic jams around Walkers Road, where the majority of the island’s schools are located, are a symptom of a lack of coordinated planning, Mr. Pandohie said.

The Development Plan will look at situating new schools within high-density residential areas to avoid exacerbating the morning rush hour or having to fund more new roads.

“A lot of that traffic is associated with moving children to and from school,” Mr. Pandohie said.

“Why account for a six-lane highway when it is more cost-effective to allocate land for a school within that residential area?”

Public transport is another crucial part of the plan. Everything from a dedicated bus lane to potential innovations like water taxis are up for discussion.

From a zoning perspective, Mr. Pandohie said the plan will aim to create more mixed-use neighborhoods and lessen the need for people to drive.

He said the planners do not have a figure in mind for the island’s maximum population but that may be something that comes out of the consultation process.

He said the key question is: “What carrying capacity can we support, based on the quality of life we want to have on the island?”

Richard Mileham, part of the department’s policy and development unit that has worked on the plan, said the strategic planning statement was just the beginning of a lengthy process. It is due to be launched Thursday with a dedicated website, www.plancayman.ky. The public is invited to give feedback.

Mr. Mileham said, “It sets out vision, goals and objectives for the future of the island. At this point, we really want people to tell us if they agree with our approach.”

He said the document incorporated input from previous efforts to update the plan, as well as other national reports, including Vision 2008, the National Energy Policy and the Solid Waste Management Strategy.

From January, he said, planners would be going into more detail looking at each neighborhood, starting with the Seven Mile Beach corridor. At that point, there will be a chance for public meetings and debates, before area-specific plans are formulated, he added.

A more general plan will also be produced with specific proposals for land use throughout the island, before a zoning map and regulations go to the Legislative Assembly for approval.