The Central Planning Authority dismissed a directive from the Department of Environment, acting on behalf of the National Conservation Council, to reject a planning application to replace a seawall and cabana on Boggy Sand Road in West Bay because, it says, it had not received a ‘lawful directive’ from the NCC.
Minutes of the planning meeting on 1 Sept. at which the application was approved – despite the DoE’s directive to reject it based on the expected detrimental impact on the marine environment and beach – were released this week and outline the reasoning behind the planning board’s decision.
The minutes note, “The Authority was satisfied that it was not in possession of a lawful directive issued under Section 41 (5) of the National Conservation Act, by the National Conservation Council directing the Authority to refuse planning permission without undertaking a full inquiry and consideration of the application under its statutory mandate to effectively direct development so as safeguard the economic, cultural, social, and general welfare of the people, subject thereto the environment.”
At the opening of its lengthy written submission to the board, which detailed its objections to the plan, the DoE had said that its review was provided “by the Director of the Department of Environment under delegated authority from the National Conservation Council (section 3 (13) of the National Conservation Act, 2013)”.
The relevant section of the National Conservation Act states, “The Council may delegate any of its functions, other than the making of orders and the issuing of directives, to the Director or to any committee or sub-committee of its members.”
The DoE had directed the planning board not to approve the application by Cayman Property Investments Ltd., which had asked for permission to remove an existing seawall, built by the former owner, which was failing, and a cabana. The department had pointed out that permission for the original structure, which was built in 2009, should never have been given as it was built too close to the sea, and had led to beach erosion in the area.
Under the National Conservation Act, the National Conservation Council can direct an authority to refuse an action if it is likely to have an adverse effect on a protected area. The site on Boggy Sand Road is adjacent to the Seven Mile Beach Marine Reserve, which is a Marine Protected Area, the DoE noted in its submission.
The board, according to the minutes, “fully considered” the advice submitted by the DoE and determined that the department had “placed an undue reliance” on removing all structures from the site, which was not a consideration before the CPA.
“The Authority notes the inconsistency in the advice provided by the DoE which advocated
for the removal of all structures from the property, juxtaposed against the recommendation
calling for the installation of a properly designed wall, on the subject site, for the protection
of the adjoining house with a tie-in to the sheet-piled CIG installed seawall on Mary Molly
Hydes Road. The Authority was unable to rationalise the inconsistency in the advice
rendered by the DoE in this regard, and therefore was unable to adopt the advocated course of action,” the minutes state.
The CPA, in the minutes, outlined some other reasons for its decision, including stating that it had accepted advice rendered initially by the DoE that a curved or stepped seawall would serve to redirect or dissipate wave energy, thereby reducing the negative effects the current straight seawall is causing.
The board set down a number of conditions that the property owner would be required to meet while demolishing the existing seawall and replacing it with a new wall. These include completing construction of the replacement wall inside the existing wall, before taking down that original wall; putting silt screen in place during construction; and obtaining a Final Certificate of Fitness for Occupancy prior to occupying the new cabana.
It noted, “The Authority determined that the existing seawall was becoming detrimental to the property, surrounding properties, and the abutting Marine Protected Area given the
deteriorating state of the wall and the serious structural integrity issues relating to the failure of the foundations as noted by the reviewing engineer. The Authority concluded that
permitting the current seawall to remain in situ would result in the least desirable outcome
for the surrounding environs with the inevitable further deterioration and eventual failure of
the existing wall.”
The Compass reached out the Department of Environment for a response. John Bothwell, manager of the DoE’s Legislation Implementation and Coordination Unit, said, “The Department of Environment have only recently received a copy of the CPA Minutes and the Department and the National Conservation Council are currently in discussions on the way forward. We are not certain why the Central Planning Authority has taken that view in relation to the lawful direction provided by the DoE on behalf of the Council.”
The Compass also contacted Premier Wayne Panton, whose remit includes the Ministry of Sustainability and Climate Resiliency, and Director of Planning Haroon Pandohie who passed the query along to CPA chairman Ian Pairadeau. We are awaiting responses.