(CMR) The Department of Environment has recommended that Cabinet refuse an application by Peppercorn Investments to construct 19 overwater bungalows and other infrastructure in the South Hole Sound Marine Reserve in Little Cayman.
Peppercorn Investments is seeking approval for the construction of the 19 bungalows and associated water infrastructure, including a hot tub/Jacuzzi tub and a dock to moor a boat on each bungalow in the designated protected area.
More than 100 letters of objection were sent to the Department of Environment and the Ministry of Sustainability and Climate Change regarding the proposed development. A large proportion of the objections have been reportedly based on the fact that the site is a Marine Reserve and a protected area and that this type of development should not be permitted in a Marine Reserve.
The property at Kingston Bight was developed around 1973 as a fishing and diving lodge, at the time called Kingston Bight Lodge. The property, which had an approximately 100 ft dock, was severely damaged by Hurricane Gilbert in 1988. The dock was repaired in 1993 with a Coastal Works Permit and extended to a T-shape with a length of approximately 153 feet.
According to a Costal Works review published in August 2021, the land-based element of the proposed development consists of 42 bedrooms within 18 units and 19 overwater bungalows, resulting in 61 bedrooms. This includes 6 clusters of buildings, with each having two single-story two-bedroom units and one two-story three-bedroom unit.
The review said the overwater bungalows required 549 piles, as each overwater bungalow would be supported by 22 piles, and piles would also support the deck and boardwalk areas.
The overwater bungalows and boardwalk foundation would be constructed with 12″ to 14″ round coated steel pile filled with G 90 galvanized steel I beams on top of the piles, G 90 galvanized steel composite decking.
The overwater bungalows require coastal works permit under the National Conservation Act. Section 21 states that “the Cabinet shall not grant a permit unless it is satisfied that- (a) In the case of a permitting authorizing the works in a protected area, the works are compatible with any management plan for the area or that appropriate, and enforceable conditions can be imposed to ensure such compatibility.”
In the Coastal Review, the Department said it strongly recommends this application for refusal based on the principle of prohibiting the construction and establishment of habitable structures in a Marine Protected Area.
The DoE said the project would ordinarily trigger the requirement for screening to determine the need for an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). The Department has written an EIA Screening Opinion which recommends an EIA and submitted it to the National Conservation Council for consideration; however, it believes that it would not be beneficial or logical for the Applicant to do an EIA for a project, which is fundamentally unacceptable due to its location and would be unacceptable regardless of the results of the EIA.
“Therefore, the Department is urging Cabinet to refuse permission for this coastal works application based on the impacts outlined in this review and the endorsement of the Department of Tourism, Department of Lands & Survey, Department of Planning, Ministries of Planning & Environment that habitable structures should not be permitted in Marine Protected Areas,” the Coastal Review stated.
It continued: “However if Cabinet is minded to accept the principal of overwater bungalows in a Marine Reserve, the DoE said it strongly recommends that an Environmental Impact Assessment is undertaken to assess the potential impacts of the proposed project. Such an EIA would need to cover both the land and marine components of the proposed project.”