Berry appeals over quarry

| 28/11/2008

(CNS): Despite that fact that the original application was turned down in accordance with a specific regulation of the Development and Planning Law, Lorenzo Berry has submitted an appeal to the Planning Department regarding the decision by the CPA in October over his application to quarry 250,000 cubic yards of aggregate from land in a residential area of the Lower Valley Forest in Beach Bay.

On 27 October the Central Planning Authority said they had turned down Berry’s application to quarry in the area in accordance with Regulation 9 (4) which states that, “no use of land in a residential zone shall be dangerous, obnoxious toxic or cause offensive odours or conditions or otherwise create a nuisance or annoyance to others.”

As residents of Mahogany Estates, the community backing on to Berry’s land have experienced his persistent quarry over the years without permission, they can testify that his operation certainly contravenes that regulation. The residents group which has continually objected to Berry’s activities had thought after permission was denied on a clear point of law they could perhaps regain some kind of stability in their lives. However, the receipt in yesterday’s post of Berry’s application to appeal has unsettled the community yet again.

“While we are not entirely surprised that Mr Berry would attempt to persist with this quarrying operation, it is still very unsettling for us to have to face this all again especially when the application was turned down a clear point of law,” said Jean Ebanks one of the driving forces behind the Mahogany Residents group that has been dealing with the quarrying activities of Berry for many years.  “There was nothing ambiguous about this decision there are no grey areas. The law clearly states that you can’t undertake toxic and dangerous activities in a residential area. And as excavating includes blasting there is no getting around this law.”

Ebanks said that she and the other key members of the residents group at Mahogany Estates including the Reverend Nicholas Sykes would continue the fight to protect their homes and they would this time face Berry with legal representation of their own. Despite the expense Ebanks noted that fighting the original application was very stressful for all of them and she felt that legal assistance was important to ensure that the decision was not overturned.

The application to the Planning Appeals Tribunal against the decisions of the CPA was submitted by Berry’s attorney’s Samuel Jackson and is persistent with Berry’s original application to Planning to effectively continue his quarryingon land between the Mahogany Estate residents and the sea in the area of Beach Bay.

Apart from the obvious danger and nuisance element on which the original application was turned down there were a number of other objections to the project including an environmental one which was supported by evidence from the Department of Environment that demonstrated a number of red list species in the area which Lorenzo wishes to quarry including the endangered white shouldered bat.

There were also objections from members of Berry’s own family who are in dispute with him over the ownership of the land. Murali Ram from attorneys Mourant, who was acting for the members of the Berry family at the time, noted that Berry’s right to excavate the property was in question and that planning would be wise to take legal advice before granting Berry official planning permission to quarry and level land that was not solely owned by him, CNS understands that this claim has not yet been settled and that at present under another complaint Berry was supposed to fill in the land he has already excavated.

The dispute has caused controversy because Berry under his company White Rock Investments has been removing aggregate form the land for many years contrary to the original planning permission he was granted which was merely to clear land for a sub-division. Further controversy was also raised when it was revealed that the illegal fill quarried from the area had actually been bought by government and used by the National Roads Authority in the development of the east-west arterial bypass.

Berry’s quarrying activities have not only disturbed wildlife but have caused enormous anxiety tot he residents of Mahogany Estates, a sub-division originally sold by Berry himself. The residents have persistently accused Berry of bullying and harassing them over the years when they have made complaints to the police or the Planning Department about the excavation and blasting. There are also concerns that Berry’s activity will in the event of a major storm in the area cause extensive flooding to properties even beyond the Mahogany Estates boundaries.

Another interested party with property in the area who has suggested that the CPA should have quashed Berry’s application for excavation from the very beginning because of the law has also raised very serious concerns about the potential flooding risk to surrounding property caused by excavation. He believes that the Planning Department as well as Berry could be liable for any future damage caused to property because of the excavation that has already taken place.

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  1. It might be fair for the residents to request (and require, if possible) that no member of the Planning Appeals Tribunal – which I understand is an entirely different body from the Central Planning Authority – be the owner of a quarry.

    The reality is that the Planning regulation requiring any quarry whatever to be in a heavy industrial zone, and not in a residential zone, has been ignored all over the place. With the population of Grand Cayman on the increase, this must stop. I refer to regulation 12 (4) (d) and 12(6).

    If any member of the Tribunal is himself in breach of this regulation, he might be inclined to try to let this one get away as well.


    Rev Nicholas Sykes