Court quashes Cabinet approval for private dock

The Grand Court has quashed a Cabinet decision which granted a coastal works permit to businessman Marcus Cumber to build a 128-foot private dock from his Vista del Mar property into Salt Creek.

In her written judgment, issued 22 June, Justice Margaret Ramsay-Hale said the recommendation to approve the permit despite the many objections to the coastal works, “robbed” the Cabinet decision “of all logic”.

At the centre of the decision is former Environment Minster Dwayne Seymour, who is said to have brought the application before the Cabinet in December 2018.

Dwayne Seymour
Former Environment Minister Dwayne Seymour – Photo: GIS

Seymour recommended the application, despite vocal opposition from the Department of Environment, the Department of Planning, the National Conservation Council, the Cayman Islands Port Authority, the surrounding strata and several private objectors.

The objectors raised such issues as nautical navigational hazards, visual impacts, light and noise pollution, and the proximity of the proposed dock to a protected terrestrial area. They also pointed out that the dock was more than 2,000% larger than the 6-foot allowance for the area, and that Cumber had access to a communal dock which was capable of mooring large boats similar to the size of his vessel.

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According to the judgment, an FOI request revealed that during the December Cabinet meeting, there was no evidence to suggest the objections were discussed. The FOI is also said to have revealed that no reason was given for why Cabinet chose to rule against the objectors.

The coastal works permit was issued in January 2019. The approval sparked a judicial review, which was filed by the collective homeowners of Cumber’s strata and the matter was heard 14 Oct. 2020.

The property owners claimed Cabinet’s decision to grant permission was ‘irrational’ because there was no proof that Cabinet considered the objections, nor did they give any reasons for their approval.

In her ruling, Ramsay-Hale noted of Seymour, “Given his decision to recommend the grant of the permit, one can infer that the Minister believed the DoE’s views and Planning’s concerns should be accorded no weight and that the objections of the Strata and other private objectors should be ignored…”

She later wrote, “In my judgment, the recommendation that the permit be granted, despite the objections raised against it, robbed the Cabinet Paper, and the decision of Cabinet made on the basis of it, of all logic.”

Upon quashing the decision, the justice returned the matter to Cabinet for further consideration. She also awarded an application of costs, for an undisclosed sum, in favour of the petitioners.

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