A towering construction crane casts its shadow across the soft white sand of Seven Mile Beach as the clear blue water stretches out towards the horizon.
It’s an image that encapsulates some of the conflict surrounding the future of Cayman’s greatest natural asset and number one tourist attraction.
The right balance between economic growth and the preservation of the beach as an ecosystem and recreational attraction for all is a fundamental issue for the country, for the candidates running for election and for the officials attempting to craft the first update to Cayman’s Development Plan in a generation.
From concerns over beach erosion and blocked access paths to questions around multi-story buildings and over-tourism, there are complex long-term challenges to face.
With consultations over ‘Plan Cayman’ on hold in the run-up to the election, the Compass conducted our own consultation exercise to get perspectives from the people who will have the greatest say in how those issues are resolved.
We reached out to the businesses, politicians and environmental advocates to tell seven stories about the possible futures for Seven Mile Beach.
Rival visions of Seven Mile Beach
- Plan Cayman seeks to guide growth
- The developer’s perspective: Dart outlines ambitions for Seven Mile corridor
- The environmental perspective: Natural and man-made problems cast shadows over Seven Mile’s future
- The real estate perspective: Luxury investors fuel economy
- The settler’s perspective: Window into the past
- The political perspective: Candidates seek to balance environment and the economy
- The campaigner’s perspective: ‘The runaway train of reckless development must stop’
- Dart Enterprises, the largest landowner in the area, outlined plans for new developments, making the case for taller buildings in certain areas. CEO Mark VanDevelde told us that the company is committed to Cayman as its global headquarters and believes it can help strike the right balance between “economic, social and environmental interests”.
- The Department of Environment highlighted serious ongoing concerns around beach erosion and warned the lack of a development plan threatens the long term future of the island’s greatest natural asset. Deputy director Tim Austin cautions that Seven Mile is a ‘finite resource’ and argues for a carrying capacity assessment.
- Real Estate businesses highlighted the importance of luxury property investors to the economy. Property Cayman’s Michael Joseph encourages us to view them as “high-spending, long-stay tourists”. He suggests demolishing and rebuilding older properties, as is happening at Lacovia, could be the blueprint for future development in the area.
- The owners of one of Seven Mile Beach’s oldest properties, an 80-year-old timber-framed cottage on Boggy Sand Road, gave us a glimpse into the area’s past. Shirley Roulstone recalled her childhood days at the home when there was little or no development and ‘only a few lights visible between George Town and West Bay’
- Community campaign group Amplify Cayman shared strong views about how Seven Mile is facing what it describes as a “perfect storm of ecological, cultural and economic devastation”. Spokesperson Eden Hurlston called for a fresh approach to ensure “the people of Cayman” are prioritised over “the profit motive” of developers.
- Candidates seeking election have different views on the right balance between economic development and environmental protection. We sought the views of current planning minister Joey Hew and a variety of rival candidates on how they would sustainably manage the future of Seven Mile.
- The current forum that will dictate future zoning and building policy on the beach is the Plan Cayman project. We checked in with the Department of Planning to get a brief update on the status of that exercise.
What do you think the priorities should be for Cayman’s next Development Plan and for the Seven Mile Beach corridor in particular?
Send your thoughts to [email protected].