Lower valley residents ready for ‘quarry’ battle

| 12/03/2012

quarry 4.JPG(CNS): The Planning Appeals Tribunal is expected to hear an appeal by Whiterock Investments Tuesday morning in connection with an on-going disputed development in the Lower Valley area of Bodden Town. As a result of procedural objections the appeal which was scheduled for 13 February was cancelled at the last minute. The appeal has been rescheduled and residents who are objecting to what they see as an application to quarry on the doorstep of their homes are preparing once again to present their objections. The tribunal will hear the appeal against a decision made by the CPA one year ago not to allow the excavation of 295,000 cubic yards of fill.

The residents of the Lower Valley Forest community, which is also home to a number of indigenous and native endangered species, have been battling with Whiterock for some 15 years over blasting and excavation in the heart of their quiet, countryside community.
Although the residents had hoped, once again, last year that their long running misery may have ended when the CPA denied the application, the appeal has raised significant concerns, not just for the homeowners but the local environment, which is home to the critically endangered white shouldered bat.

The application in February last year was denied, as was the case in October 2008, on the basis that it wasillegal to pursue activities that would "cause noise and create a nuisance and annoyance to the residents of the area" and "negatively affect the quality of life of the residents in the surrounding area". The developer has filed an appeal stating that the CPA was “erroneous in law, unreasonable and in breach of the rules of natural justice.”

However, allowing the application would certainly be a threat to the natural environment as the developer wishes to level land in the heart of a habitat of particular significance.
As well as being home to the white shouldered bat, which was once thought to be extinct in the Cayman Islands but was rediscovered in the area in 2001, the Department of Environment hopes the forest will become one of the country’s first critical habitats protected in law should the long awaited national conservation law ever be passed.

With no conservation law in place at present, as with every planning issue the CPA or tribunal hears, during this appeal there will be no compulsion for it to consider the environmental implications nor, should the appeal be allowed, would the landowners be under any obligation to carry out an environmental impact assessment.

Both the endangered bat and the residents will be depending on the planning law, which prohibits excavation on such a scale in a residential area. Whiterock has denied allegations by the residents that the original application was a quarry but claims the goal is to level the land for development. The developer also claims that because the blasting will be done during the day the impact of the excavation on residents will be kept to a minimum.

In last year’s application Whiterock also stated that the environmental impact would be minimal as it would move some of the native trees at the site and as a result believed that any species at risk would move to the surrounding area.

Bishop Nicholas Sykes, one of the Mahogany Estate residents who have been leading the fight against the excavation for more than a decade, said that although the CPA had ruled against Whiterock three times, the residents once again would be forced to fight for their homes, their right to peace in their community and the environment.

The appeal will be heard in the conference room at the Government Administration Building at 9:00am.


Category: Science and Nature

Comments (14)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Lets allhope and pray that this excavation project is stopped and never raise it's ugly head again. Also why is Mark Scotland stalling on the National Conservation Bill is it because of votes? The Minister promised us that he'll make sure that this hugely important bill will be passed back in 2010 and 2 years on it still hasn't been, I smell something fishy. Why is Mr. Berry so keen on destroying one our last remaining forest and not trying to protect it for future generations? Why because he's only concerned about making money and doesn't care about our woodlands, this is so sad. I asked that every Caymanian and resident alike sign a petition to protect this beautiful forest and please support Pastor Sykes and the residents of Mahogany Estates.

    Blessings to all,

  2. Anonymous says:

    Keep up the fight!  That blasting will crack all your tiles in your homes!

  3. Whodatis says:

    Parties on either side of this issue are truly caught between a rock and a hard place.

    On one hand I empathize with the concerned residents of the surrounding area – on the other hand, I cannot help but feel the circumstances are rather unfortunate for the 'developer'.

    However, all things considered I would be likely to rule in favour of the majority – which are the residents.

    Talk about a potential goldmine going to waste.

    Such is life I guess.

    May the best party win.

    * The Cayman Islands is in dire need of a conservation law and concise development plan.

    At least then everyone would know exactly where they stood and these never-ending sagas could be avoided.

    • Pit Bull says:

      I am glad we are agreed on the value of conservation projects.  My favourite is this marine conservation efforts in the British Indian Ocean Territories.  What's yours?

      • Anonymous says:

        I presume when you write about "marine" conservation efforts in the British Indian Ocean Territories, you are referring to the UK's assistance to the US Marine Corps by allowing it to use Diego Garcia for some of its dodgy activities?

  4. Anonymous says:

    If it's not a "quarry" then what was it that they sold to the NRA for road construction……materials collected when they blasted.  If it waddles like a quarry and quacks like a quarry then in essence isn't it a quarry?

  5. Anonymous says:

    I had a similar thing happen to a unpopular project in snug habour, arrange meeting, then cancel at last minute and reschedule to try and keep the protesters on their toes.

    In our case the rescheduled meeting time we recieved on the morning of the meeting, and even though around 50 people showed for the inital meeting only 5 made it to the rescheduled one, the developers then had the audacity to claim the lack of attendence by the protesters was due to a lack of opposition and the CPA agreed

    All a big underhanded dirty tricks campaign

  6. Anonymous says:

    Perhaps it's an undeclared  policy: Break the residents down, bludgeon them into exhausted submission so they give up and move out. Destroy the value of gtheir properties.This shouldn't be allowed to happen, there's something deeply wrong with the law. No one should have to put up with this. It's harassment, pure and simple.

    • Anonymous says:

      Thank you!  I am a long time resident who has been fighting this battle for almost 20 years now. I refuse to be bludgeoned, downtrodden or anything else.  I will not give up and know there are many of us who feel the same.  Not just for ourselves and our children but for the surrounding community.    I wish there was something in the planning law to stop the constant applications and the stress we go through preparing each time. 

  7. Anonymous says:

    What a bunch of crock? When is enough enough? How many more times can one reapply to the CPA for a permission? Isnt' there are a "three strikes and your out" type of law?  Come on, this is just crazy!

    • Anonymous says:

      There should be, but there isn't.  The current planning law protects developers.  There are so many things wrong with it.  For example you don't have to be the owner of property to apply and be granted planning permission to do whatever you like on someone else's property.  The only recourse the owner has is to fight through the courts and obviously not many landowners have that kind of money.  In this case, the developer does not own the land. The land is part of an estate – obviously not being administered in the best interests of the beneficiaries and still the applications go on and on.

      • anonymous says:

        You are partly correct but not 100% accurate. Yes anyone can apply for PLANNING permission but only the Landonwer can get the right to BUILD anything. The land owner is ultimately in full control of his or her property.

        The benefit of this is to allow someone who is thinking of purchasing a property, or someone who has an conditional option to purchase, to apply for planning permission. Even when Planning permission is granted, anyone else, including the owner, can apply for a separate planning permission and recieve it. The permissions then coexist on the site until one is executed.

        I am sure in this case the 'estate' will have to grant permission for access and modification before the applicant can do so even if he has planning permission. If the applicant is a part of the said estate it gets more complicated and gives the applicant even more control ultimately.

        So you are incorrect that you have to use the courts as a landowner to stop someone else developing your land. You have full control of it at all times, even if someone comes along at night and submits a plan for your property.

        • Anonymous says:

          So what happens when, as in this case, the permission sought by the applicant includes not only the said estate lands but also seven properties belonging to entirely different people – two of whom have built houses and a third who wanted to but couldn't because he/she was unable to access his/her property, the roadway planned there being never built and the natural land level where the roadway had been planned being destroyed by previous excavations?

    • noname says:

      These people will never stop because they will be able to make millions of dollars simply selling dirt if they're allowed to do this. And they will eventually win because that's they way it is in Cayman.