Cayman’s Planning Department approved 748 projects valued at more than $890 million last year, an increase of 18.4% over 2018, Commerce Minister Joey Hew announced Wednesday.

Hew, tabling his ministry’s annual report in the Legislative Assembly, said during the 2019 financial year, development continued to grow, “with marked increases in all sectors of the Department of Planning”.

He said 1,249 planning permits, valued at more than $470 million, and 435 certificates of occupancy, valued over $205 million, had been issued by the department last year.

Hew added that of the 12,267 inspections carried out last year, 11,324 were approved.

“This was an approval rating of 92.3% in 2019,” he added.

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According to the report, titled ‘Pathways to strength and prosperity’, the majority of projects approved last year fell under institutional, residential and other categories. A total of 435 certificates of occupancy were issued in 2019, worth more than an estimated $205 million.

Hew said the Plan Cayman Development Framework underwent its first round of public consultation in 2019 and “generated significant interest and participation with over 350 people submitting formal responses”.

This, he said, is the first development plan drawn up in 20 years that “looks at the future infrastructure demands for Grand Cayman, such as new schools, roads, and public transport improvements required in the years ahead, as well as balancing the protection of the environment with ongoing development”.

He said government is now moving to the area-by-area planning phase, with the aim of covering the entire of Grand Cayman over five years.

“The first plan will be created for the Seven Mile Beach Corridor to positively deal with both the development pressures there, as well as ensuring that the island is maximising on the economic opportunities available,” he told legislators.

Hew said that, during 2019, the department continued to refine the Online Planning System, which facilitates most of the department’s planning activities, from the issuance of certificates of occupancy to payment collection.

“It has reduced the need for members of the public to attend the planning counter and has allowed technical personnel to focus on substantive areas of work rather than administrative duties. One of the main advantages of the Online Planning System is the ability to track processes,” he said.

Hew explained that documents entering work queues are date-stamped, which means there is an auditable movement trail, and there are back-up capabilities to ensure documents are not misplaced or deleted.

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