Would-be politicians hear South Sound woes
(CNS): There was a full slate of potential politicians padding out the crowd at an awareness meeting Friday regarding the threats to the marine environment and surrounding areas of South Sound in the face of a proposed development. Despite the long campaign to stop the Emerald Sound project, activists were able to attract a significant number of new faces this weekend as the election approaches and candidates become aware that this is and has been a significant local issue. The activists are fighting against a Central Planning Authority ruling that the developer could recover a pre-Ivan costal boundary as well as cut a canal through from the ocean to his development, and they hammered home the dangerous precedents that could be set by the decision if it is not overturned on appeal. (Photo David Wolfe)
Recounting the history of the campaign fight to well over 100 people, Katrina Jurn, Melissa Wolfe, John McKenzie and Berna Cummins set out the issues at stake and the serious threats posed to the community and beyond by the development.
South Sound is a Marine Replenishment Zone and designated a scenic coastline by the country’s development plan. But neither this nor the significant number of objections from residents and environmental activists, or even recommendations from the government's environment department, has prevented the CPA from granting permission to a developer to destroy a recovering mangrove project and recover several hundred feet of eroded coastline.
As well as allowing the developer to reclaim his land from the sea, even though the law says that coastal boundaries are not fixed, the Central Planning Authority also granted planning permission in August 2011 for the Emerald Sound development project to cut a canal though the road from the sound inland to the development’s marina, which would require the relocation of the existing road inland by some 75 feet and a bridge over the canal.
The activists, known as the Protect South Sound group, have appealed the CPA’s decision over the development but were forced through a lack of resources to give up on their fight to try and stop the land reclamation of some 2000 feet from the sea and several tons of fill has now been dumped by the developer into the Sound.
“We were able to get the developer to agree not start the construction of the seawall until the Planning Appeals Tribunal has heard the appeal,” Jurn told the audience of budding politicians but she explained that this was not before the marine area was significantly damaged.
“The coastal mangroves along those 2,000 feet of coastline are gone. The natural coastline lies under 30,000 cubic yards of fill or more,” she added. “However, potentially the worst is yet to come. If we allow this CPA approval to stand unchallenged, many other coastal property owners around the island will seek to do the same. It’s extremely important that we take this to the Planning Appeals Tribunal in order to protect not just South Sound but our entire coastline.”
Begging for the conservation law and for clearer protections for the islands’ coastline and environment all round, Jurn said the campaigners could not do this alone.
She said the precedent it could invite a flurry of applications for people to extend their properties out to coastal boundaries from years before and reclaiming land from Cayman’s already threatened delicate marine environment.
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