The concrete wall bordering Seven Mile Public Beach along West Bay Road has neared completion despite public outcry over its height.
The wall was constructed following instructions from the Central Planning Authority which directed Dart, the contractor for the Seven Mile Beach enhancement project, to build the wall to a height of 5 feet, saying it was an issue of safety.
However, numerous requests from the Cayman Compass have gone unanswered seeking clarification on the reasoning behind the CPA’s instruction and what data was used to inform the decision on specifications for the wall.
During its construction, the wall has provoked public outcry as it obstructs one of the few remaining views of the water at Seven Mile Beach.
In December last year, CPA Chairman A.L. Thompson, in a letter to the editor submitted to the Compass, defended the decision to build the wall 5 feet high.
It forms part of a $3 million project, contained in the National Roads Authority Agreement between Dart and government.
Dart had responded to complaints about the wall, issuing a statement saying it ultimately respected the CPA’s directives on it.
Thompson, in his letter on the decision, said, “Just prior to the Central Planning Authority receiving the application, there was a serious accident around the corner involving a pedestrian. The Central Planning Authority felt a higher wall would prevent future accidents of this nature.”
The Ministry of Commerce, Planning and Infrastructure, which was applying for permission, has submitted original designs to the Central Planning Authority calling for a 2.3-feet-high wall along the section of the public beach bordering West Bay Road.
However, Dart said, as a condition of approving the application, “the CPA directed the applicant to build a wall at 5 feet instead and further directed the applicant to build the wall inside the sidewalk”.
Thompson said, in his December letter, “while there is some unfortunate loss of beach views and vistas, the issue of safety remains our primary concern”.
In addition to the height specifications, the chairman said, the CPA directed that the wall be constructed with no openings “to discourage the dangerous practice of persons, especially visitors, crossing from the public beach to the other side of the road”.
“There has been a common practice of taxis and tour buses stopping on the corner to collect passengers,” he added.
Thompson explained the varying height was determined on advice received from the NRA in consideration of the visibility needed to produce unobstructed views for motorists entering and exiting Public Beach.
“The type and position of the wall was discussed at length and consideration was given to a number of factors, particularly the need to set the wall back from the road due to the location of pre-existing underground utilities,” he said. “As a result, typical barrier methods such as a fence or guard rails would have been inadequate at that location.”
Thompson said the final design will position a sidewalk behind the wall to protect pedestrians travelling to and from the beach.
“The approved design also provides for Cayman rocks and vegetation to be included to make it more aesthetically pleasing as seen on other projects,” he added.
The minutes of the CPA meeting held on 21 March 2018, which led to its decision, can be found on the Department of Planning website at www.planning.ky.