National Trust heads to court over cruise referendum

Tuesday hearing scheduled

The National Trust will be in court Tuesday morning for the first phase of its legal challenge to the referendum on the port project, according to the organisation’s executive director, Nadia Hardie.

The hearing, scheduled for 9am, is not open to the public. It is fairly common for preliminary hearings such as this to be held ‘in chambers’, though dispensations are sometimes made in public interest cases to allow limited access to the press.

The exact nature of Tuesday’s hearing is unclear and Trust officials were reluctant to discuss details Monday. It is understood that the legal challenge could result in a delay to the referendum.

The Trust has filed for leave to appeal for judicial review of government’s decision to proceed with a public poll on the $200 million port project before an updated environmental impact assessment is completed.

According to a ‘letter before action’ submitted by the Trust’s lawyers to government last month, the organisation is seeking a legal ruling that the vote should be delayed until “all necessary studies” have been conducted on the new design.

The Trust lists a revised environmental impact assessment, an analysis of the long-term viability of coral relocation and a review of the feasibility and ecological impact of moving the wrecks of the Balboa and the Cali, among the studies it says should take place before a referendum.

What is judicial review?
Judicial review allows applicants with sufficient interest in a decision or action by a public body to ask the Grand Court to review the lawfulness of rules and regulations, or other subordinate legislation; or a decision, action or failure to act in relation to the exercise of a public function.

The Trust also claims in its letter that the consultants who carried out the original EIA and have been retained for the update by Verdant Isle Port Partners, the consortium behind the project, are “no longer independent.

“In the circumstances, there is and will be no relevant, perceived independent EIA, in respect of the cruise berthing project which is the subject of the proposed referendum.”

A leading member of the Cruise Port Referendum Cayman group is also seeking to bring legal action to ensure the vote is conducted in a “fair and lawful” manner, the organisation confirmed last week.

Shirley Roulstone has filed an application for a ‘protective costs order’, which would shield her from potentially massive legal costs if the eventual judicial review is unsuccessful. If that costs application is approved, Roulstone will proceed with the legal action, CPR indicated in a press statement.

Premier Alden McLaughlin commented on the legal challenges in the Legislative Assembly last week, acknowledging the vote could be delayed.

“This action is most regrettable,” he said. “There is now grave uncertainty as to whether or not the referendum will actually proceed and the state of uncertainty and division in the country will only continue and heighten.”