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Court of Appeal confirms NCC’s powers

Local News 04 Sep, 2023 Follow News

Photo by Cayman News Service

Last Friday the Cayman Islands Court of Appeal confirmed that the National Conservation Act (2013) provides the National Conservation Council (NCC) with the ability to direct government bodies in circumstances where actions could have an adverse effect on protected areas or species.

The issue stemmed from an approval made by the Central Planning Authority for an application to rebuild a seawall and cabana on Boggy Sand Road in West Bay. This went against an NCC direction not to approve the project due to the potential for negative impacts on the surrounding marine protected area, namely the Seven Mile Beach Marine Reserve. Last year, the Grand Court of the Cayman Islands ruled in favour of the NCC, concluding that the CPA acted unlawfully when it approved the application. The CPA appealed the decision in September 2022. The Court of Appeal decision confirms the NCC is legally able to direct government bodies in circumstances where actions could negatively impact designated protected areas or the critical habitat of protected species

Premier and Minister for Sustainability & Climate Resiliency, Wayne Panton, said he hoped this latest decision would enable all parties to move forward, stating that this ruling confirmed the legal basis for factoring environmental concerns into decision-making processes across the Cayman Islands government, particularly where actions could have an adverse effect on a protected area or protected species critical habitat.

“I am comfortable that the Courts have settled this matter once and for all and there can be no more room for debate,” he said, adding that government agencies and boards had to move forward according to the law, working collaboratively to advance the country’s vison for sustainable development that balances Cayman’s built and natural environment.

“Not only have the Courts spoken, but the people of the Cayman Islands are making their voices heard loud and clear – they understand the links between a healthy environment, a prosperous economy and a vibrant society and culture, and they want to see the Government actively taking steps to prioritise sustainable development that benefits all people of the Cayman Islands now and in future,” he stated.

The Court of Appeal ruling does not give the NCC any new powers, nor does it give the NCC unlimited powers. The ruling does not add any new delays or deterrents to the planning process.

Department of Environment Director Gina Ebanks-Petrie said she hoped the latest ruling would put an end to misinformation about the role and powers of the NCC.

“From the outset, our only goal has been to clarify the law,” she confirmed. “Since the National Conservation Act was passed unanimously by Parliament in 2013, the NCC has always been able to direct government entities to refuse a proposal that could have a negative impact on a designated protected area or the critical habitat of a protected species, where conditions of approval are unable to mitigate those adverse effects. What these rulings have clarified is that government entities that do not follow those directions are acting unlawfully.”

Ms Ebanks-Petrie went on to say that the NCC could only direct conditions of approval or refusal in very limited circumstances – when the proposal could have a negative impact on a designated protected area or the critical habitat of a protected species.

“The vast majority of planning applications do not fall into this category,” she stated.

For more information on what the ruling means for physical development within our islands, please visit: https://conservation.ky/2022/09/07/ncc-addresses-community-questions-regarding-recent-ruling/

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