Both the Planning Department and the Department of Environment have issued stop notices after the illegal clearing of mangroves in the Red Bay area.
The site, located at the end of Selkirk Drive and Abbey Way, is in the home district of Premier Alden McLaughlin and was brought to the attention of the Mangrove Rangers Wednesday afternoon, a statement from the group said Thursday.
The group describes themselves on their website as a team of “passionate Caymanians” who use their “diverse skills to protect Cayman mangroves”.
The DoE, in a statement to the Cayman Compass Thursday on the clearing, said it was contacted earlier this week by a member of the public regarding heavy equipment being used to clear an area of land, which included mangrove habitat, on Abbey Way.
“The Department of Planning confirmed that the requisite planning permission for clearing the land had not been granted and that they would be visiting the site to investigate the matter. If verified, this would constitute an offence under the Development and Planning Law,” the DoE said.
Mangroves are protected under the National Conservation Law (2013) and the Mangrove Species Conservation Plan (2020); both the DoE and Planning have issued a ‘cease and desist’ order to the relevant parties to stop all works with immediate effect, while the matter is investigated.
“It is an offence under the National Conservation Law to clear mangroves without the requisite permission. For mechanical clearing on land, including land with mangroves, permission is issued through the Department of Planning,” the DoE added.
The Mangrove Rangers contended the illegal clearing “is another example of a brazen violation of the Species Conservation Plan for Mangroves, which took effect in April 2020”.
That plan, it pointed out, establishes, “mangroves may not be taken, meaning they may not be killed, collected, destroyed, damaged, or harmed,” unless planning permission has been granted.
McLaughlin, when contacted by the Cayman Compass Thursday about the issue, said he spoke with the Director of Planning about the area in question and was advised that it involves three parcels of land, 22C 4, 5 and 6 owned by one company.
The incumbent Red Bay MP also confirmed no planning permission for either clearing or development has been applied for or granted.
Mangrove Rangers, in its statement, confirmed the same, saying a DoE officer confirmed the works at the end of Selkirk Drive and Abbey Way had not been granted planning permission.
“The clearing of the land is therefore unlawful. The matter was brought to the attention of the Department of Planning on 12th March and Stop Notices and Enforcement Notices were issued on 16th March,” McLaughlin said.
He said officers attended the site Wednesday to serve the notices but no one was on site and work appeared to have ceased.
“Efforts continue today [Thursday] by the Department of Planning to serve the company and its agents,” he added.
Mangrove Rangers founder Martin Keeley, commenting on this latest illegal clearing, said, “Once again, the developer has gone in and cleared the mangroves with no, zero, planning permission. The next part of the plan will be to have a wrist slap by the CPA and a miniscule fine.”
He said just about a year since the Species Conservation Plan for Mangroves became Law and the group has distributed the law extensively to those in the development, landscaping and construction industries.
“There is no excuse for this kind of illegal clearing,” he said.
Keeley added that this also seemed to be the general attitude pervading the island – “that mangroves can be cleared with no consequences and the law cavalierly broken. Knowing as we do the true value of the mangrove ecosystem, it is time for this illegal process to stop.”
The Species Conservation Plan for Mangroves, the group added, does not specify exemptions for private landowners and planning permission must still be acquired before landowners may clear mangrove habitat.
“As construction projects accelerate ahead of the 14 April election, the Mangrove Rangers will continue to monitor works for violations of the Species Conservation Plan,” the statement said.
Anyone who has spotted a suspected violation of the mangrove policy can contact the rangers at 923-9000 or [email protected]