DoE: Developer investigated for illegal mangrove clearing

Premier refutes claims that he condoned developer's illegal actions.

Construction equipment at the site of the clearing. Photo: Mangrove Rangers

The director of the Department of Environment says a cease-and-desist notice has been formally served to a developer who was caught illegally clearing mangroves on the company’s property in Red Bay.

Speaking at a government press conference on Friday, 19 March Gina Ebanks-Petrie said, “[O]nce we determined that… the owner of the property didn’t have permission from Planning to clear the land by mechanical means – that requires planning permission – that then makes it an offence to clear mangrove vegetation under the National Conservation Law”.

Ebanks-Petrie said the planning department had issued an enforcement notice on the developer, and her department was investigating the matter. Earlier this week the DoE said they were alerted to the illegal clearing by the Mangrove Rangers – an activist group dedicated to the protection of mangroves.

During the press conference, Premier Alden McLaughlin, the incumbent MP for the Red Bay constituency, clarified his position on the illegal clearing, and said he was operating under the assumption that the developer had also secured planning permission before clearing the lot.

“I can’t think that [the developer] was going to go and openly clear with big machines three lots in a sub-division, which has been going on for weeks without planning permission,” said McLaughlin.

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This circled area indicates the area where the mangrove was cleared. – Photo: Mangrove Rangers.

The area in question comprises three adjoining plots of land which are landlocked along Selkirk Drive, Red Bay. It is zoned as residential, and McLaughlin said this makes it highly unlikely the developers would have been refused permission to clear the land – had they applied before the illegal clearing.

“Unless there are very compelling reasons you are bound to get the planning permission, even when it involves the clearing of mangroves,” said McLaughlin. He added that to refuse permission in such instances would result in the “sterilisation of a person’s investment” which would have financial implications for the government.

McLaughlin refuted claims that he was “condoning the developer’s actions”.

He said, “To suggest, unfortunately as some have, that I was somehow condoning the illegal clearing of the land; I was proceeding under the premise as everyone else in the neighbourhood was, which was that they must have received planning permission – and everybody cussing planning, when in fact no application to planning was ever made.”

McLaughlin also said there has been a long history of developers clearing land, in an effort to show potential buyers the size of the property, only for the cleared lots to sit unused for several years.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Listen to the words of Mr. McLaughlin for a second. “Unless there are very compelling reasons you are bound to get the planning permission, even when it involves the clearing of mangroves”. He added that to refuse permission in such instances would result in the “sterilisation of a person’s investment”.

    Translation:
    “The cultural, environmental, or spiritual ramifications of developing a piece of land mean very little in our society. To deny a person converting their land into a cash would be sacrilege far greater than any other consideration.”

    Land no longer has a sacred value in our society. It is an investment. Land is simply another vehicle for creating and maintaining material wealth. Forests are just an obstacle to realising our investment.

    Our land and our sea are the only things that make us Caymanian. If your ancestors were born on this land, you are a Caymanian. This is our home, not just an investment.

    For the love of God, nature, and Cayman; please let our constituents and candidates know that our land isn’t just another way of making money. Let them know that is has a priceless sacred value.

    Our natural land is a blessing and we need to treat it that way so we can share this blessing with our future generations.

  2. Sustainability Issues Facing Cayman | Question for Candidates

    Year on year, key parts of Cayman are at greater risk of flooding from storm surges and heavier rainfall, washing sewage and other pollution into our homes and our environment. Nature has gifted Cayman with natural storm defences such as our mangrove forests and wetlands, which are being destroyed.

    (QSTN) In the next four years, how would you wish to see Cayman respond to the need for better mangrove protection, stormwater management and pollution prevention?