Irresponsible development in the Seven Mile Beach area is creating a “perfect storm of ecological, cultural and economic devastation”, according to pressure group Amplify Cayman.
The group would like to see a new direction for the country that walks back what it describes as the “runaway train” of overdevelopment.
Spokesperson Eden Hurlston said continuing with the current approach risked ruining the natural appeal that attracts visitors to Cayman in the first place.
“We are not only devastating the environment and Cayman culture but also actively eroding the appeal of the beaches that visitors and residents love.”
Amplify highlights erosion from seawalls and other structures on the beach, the blocking of access paths and the removal of trees and foliage among a list of issues that it says have been well known to policymakers for decades.
It also points to overcrowding, noise pollution and loss of open space from development among its major concerns.
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’
It argues that an updated development plan is long overdue and that much of what it should contain is already included in multiple other policies.
Hurlston points to the 2001 Environmental Charter, the National Tourism Plan and the Department of Environment’s recent paper, “Seizing the moment to transition to a greener economy” among a number of documents that outline a more considered approach to development.
“We spend considerable public funds researching, compiling and presenting this information and we either ignore it, fail to implement it, or do not enforce it, even when it becomes law.
“Then we spend more money to do more research to gather more dust and the cycle continues.”
He said implementing and enforcing a proper development plan was “infinitely important” for the island.
“Our future literally depends on it,” he said.
“The information is already there so this is a copy-and-paste scenario in many ways.
“The underlying research has already been done and like other serious socio-ecological issues, including addressing poverty, the dump, blue-green economic development and renewable energy implementation, this should have been started 20 years ago.”
Hurlston said backing up planning and environmental legislation with proper enforcement and stiff penalties was also essential to ensuring compliance.
“We need to treat our resource management as matter of social, ecological and economic national security,” he said.
“In all planning and design decisions, at every turn, we want cultural, economic and ecological needs of the people of Cayman, prioritised over the profit motive of the developers, with no exceptions.”
He acknowledged that the construction industry brings jobs but said this could not be an argument for unchecked development to continue without a proper plan.
“Massive, luxury developments seem to get approved and built overnight, but look at our parks, clinics, elder homes, community centres, cemeteries, docks and accessways. Many are in utter disrepair.
“Caymanian construction workers can all be put to work improving community facilities and infrastructure while we complete a comprehensive sustainable development plan.
“Once we have a plan, including effective enforcement, we can court new applications and plans according to our standards. If developers do not want to compromise and develop sustainably, they can go elsewhere.”
Amplify Cayman’s wish-list for future development policy includes:
– Stop the push towards a population of 100,000
– Stop concessions for luxury developments
– Acquire coastal land for public beach parks
– Cap the building height allowance at a maximum of seven stories
– A more-diverse planning board with fewer representatives of the construction industry
- This story is part of our ‘Seven on Seven’ feature series this week looking at the future of development in Cayman, and in the Seven Mile Beach corridor in particular, from multiple perspectives.