CPA turns down application to clear mangrove area

The drone photography shows the illegal clearing of the site in January 2020. - Photo: Department of Environment

The Central Planning Authority has rejected an application by K&B Ltd. to clear mangroves in Prospect near an area where illegal clearing had earlier been carried out.

The developer had applied to clear the 2.6-acre site on Hurley Merren Boulevard, zoned as neighbourhood commercial, to use initially as a construction compound with two containers – one to be used as an office – and restrooms, and a place to store building materials.

In March last year, the CPA granted planning permission for after-the-fact land clearing at the northern part of the site.

In its submission on the application, the Department of Environment pointed out that the site consists of a mixture of primary seasonally flooded mangroves and man-modified areas, which the DoE discovered was subject to illegal clearing in January last year.

The DoE noted, “In January 2020, the applicant sought planning permission to clear the northern portion of the land. It was at this time the DoE discovered the unauthorised clearing of mangroves.”

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The DoE recommended that the CPA refuse that after-the-fact clearing application, but the planning board approved it.

At its 12 July meeting, the newly appointed CPA board considered the application to carry out further land clearing on the southern part of the site, which was not part of the previous land-clearing application, as well as placement of fill and storage of materials and ancillary structures.

K&B planned to use the site to temporarily store material and equipment, and to use as a dump area of the dug-out soil from the different ongoing construction developments by the applicant. A letter from the applicant stated that a mixed-use development would eventually be built on the lot.

In its response, the DoE said it did not support either “speculative clearing” or the use of areas of primary habitat as storage sites.

“The trend of assumptive applications for land clearing for ‘future’ development without the approval of the ‘future’ development is unsustainable and a concerning precedent,” the DoE said. “This approach is extremely destructive for the natural environment as areas of primary habitat are dwindling and under increasing pressure.

“We recommend that applications for land clearing are presented along with the development that is being proposed so that appropriate mitigation measures can be recommended. We also recommend that land is not cleared until development has been approved and is imminent to allow sites to continue to provide habitat and ecosystem services.”

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