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.
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.