Government has quashed its plans to redevelop Smith Barcadere.
In a brief statement issued Wednesday afternoon, the Ministry of Commerce, Planning and Infrastructure advised that it had decided that the proposed Smith Barcadere project will not proceed.
“The Smith Barcadere Committee agreed that the project should not be pursued,” the statement said.
No reason was given for the decision.
It follows a ‘protest picnic’ organised by the group People for the Protection of Smith Barcadere last month and ongoing opposition from many local residents.
Opponents of the proposed redevelopment challenged the plans for the popular South Church Street beach, which included a parking lot, an arch at the beach entrance, walkways, additional bathroom blocks, a security office and a timber cabana.
After last month’s protest, government agreed to halt its plans until further public consultation was held and agreement on a way forward was found.
Officials had also agreed to hold a public meeting at the South Sound Community Centre to discuss the proposed plans. That meeting was never held.
Wednesday’s announcement follows claims on social media on Tuesday that land near the beach, which was the proposed area for the redevelopment, had been cleared.
The ministry refuted this, saying in a statement, “No project works have been undertaken on the site and none are planned for the future.”
The project, it said, was in an early stage of development, with the tender review process completed in February.
George Town South MLA Barbara Conolly told the Compass on Wednesday that she was disappointed the project is not going ahead.
“I wanted the Smith Barcadere area made safer and to provide access for all Caymanians and residents. That’s not going to happen now,” she said.
People for the Protection of Smith Barcadere member Berna Cummins, on Wednesday, welcomed the news that project will not move ahead.
“I’m delighted that there will be no further work carried out at Smith Barcadere and that it will remain in its natural state for all the people of Cayman to enjoy. Hopefully this will not arise again that proposed enhancements will not be done without public input. MLA Barbara and The SB [Smith Barcadere] Committee listened to the people and understood that we did not want any changes,” she said.
She thanked all the members of the People for the Protection of Smith Barcadere for their effort and support of the public throughout the island.
“Smith Barcadere is a very special place to so many people and it must remain in its natural and beautiful state,” she said.
Taura Ebanks, a George Town South constituent and one of the vocal activists against the project, posted a video to Facebook showing part of the beach that appeared to have been cleared of some vegetation.
On Wednesday, Ebanks, reacting to news of the cancellation of the project, said, “I am pleased to hear that in the absence of answered questions and proper public consultation, that our government has decided not to proceed with the estimated $2 million Smith Barcadere project at this time.”
She added that she believes that there are basic needs that can and should continue to be explored for simple cost-effective solutions, “as it relates to beach access for all, not only for this beach, but all beaches here in the Cayman Islands”.
How we got here
The ministry said it had commissioned the project on land at Smith Barcadere that the government had purchased n 2016 for $5 million.
The purchase followed a public petition led by the Save the Cove group for government to intervene after the land was earmarked for development by a private developer.
In January, the Cayman Compass highlighted plans for the latest developments in the project after a tender was posted on government’s public procurement portal.
At that time, Conolly and Planning Minister Joey Hew said they were unaware that the project had moved forward.
The Public Works Department was in charge of project management and consultancy services for the project.
Hew, speaking at the “protest picnic,” called the disconnect a breakdown in communication.
The ministry had assured that work will mainly be done on the land purchased adjacent to the beach and there will be no interference with the existing beach.
A ministry statement issued in early February showed a revised plan with a smaller parking lot, no arch and walkways. It said work, which would be limited to the land adjacent to the beach that was purchased by government in 2016, was expected to begin in March.