Candidates campaigning for election agree that Cayman’s future development must consider both the economy and the environment but differ on where the right balance lies.
As part of our feature series on the Development Plan and the future of the Seven Mile Beach corridor, the Compass reached out to current Planning Minister Joey Hew, as well as multiple other candidates campaigning for election.
We reached out to multiple candidates, of various affiliations for this segment and published the views of those who responded. Here is what they had to say…
Joey Hew: Completing Plan Cayman a priority
Planning Minister Joey Hew said the first update to the development plan in more than two decades had begun on his watch and completing it will be a key priority of the next administration.
He said the process had been set in motion with the publication of a national planning framework – the guiding document that will shape how the plan is developed.
Rival visions of Seven Mile Beach
But he acknowledged disappointment that specific area plans – which will direct planning policy at street level – were not yet in place.
Completing the Seven Mile Beach corridor plan, which will be the first of those, will be a priority, post-election, he said.
That document and the plan as a whole will seek to balance environmental considerations and land-use concerns with the needs of the tourism industry and the economy in general, Hew said.
He believes there is a compromise position between the needs and rights of developers and landowners and those who feel the beach is suffering from overdevelopment.
“That is exactly what Plan Cayman hopes to achieve,” he said.
He acknowledged concerns about taller buildings and said the Plan Cayman process “gives us a chance to say where do we want them and how should they fit in to the surrounding areas?”
“We also have to consider how we address rising sea levels and the setbacks to mitigate them,” he added.
Wayne Panton: The people should have a greater say
Wayne Panton, a former environment minister and now an independent candidate running in Newlands, argues that a proper long-term development plan must put the views and concerns of the community at its heart.
“I am concerned that there has been little real effort to involve the people of the country in long-term planning,” he said.
“The plan should ultimately reflect their views on what kind of environment, what sort of aesthetics and what kind of country they want now and in the future.”
He said Seven Mile Beach is a ‘national asset’ and the impact of decisions on its future affect the entire country, not just those in the surrounding area.
He added, “The failure of successive governments to deal with proper development planning denies an important part of the rights of the people – what do we want our country to look and feel like, now and in the future?”
McKeeva Bush: Building higher creates opportunity
Former premier McKeeva Bush is an advocate for taller buildings, both to attract wealthy investors to Cayman and as a means to create affordable housing.
He believes allowing developers to go higher is the best compromise between the needs of the economy and the environment.
Bush said development was effectively a third pillar of Cayman’s economy. And with financial services and tourism both facing threats, he argues that must continue.
He said he looked to countries like Dubai and Singapore as an example of what could be achieved though developing with wealthy investors in mind.
He said construction, real estate, property and service industry jobs flowed from such development along with millions of dollars in direct government revenue.
Going up to 15 storeys in some areas will create “new land in the air” and prevent the clearing of huge lots for new homes and businesses. He advocates instead for mixed-use buildings.
“It is some of these properties where the wealthy among the wealthiest will come to shop to purchase homes and to set up and operate their businesses,” he said.
“It will save our limited land mass and bring an economy second to none in the region.”
Bush added that higher buildings could also be used to create affordable housing in other districts without eating up too much land space and impacting Cayman’s ‘flora and fauna’.
André Ebanks: Plan must consider future generations
The Cayman Islands must focus on ‘sustainable development’ that factors in the needs of future generations, says independent candidate André Ebanks.
He argues that an environmental-management framework is needed alongside a sustainable development plan for both the Seven Mile Beach area and the country as a whole.
“A vital foundation of our future wellbeing in the Cayman Islands is the implementation of a sustainability agenda that balances the development necessary for our economic and social progress with needs of our environment and culture,” he said.
“We should remember that the main difference between development and sustainable development is that development aims at raising the quality of life of only the present generation whereas sustainable development aims at raising the quality of life of both present and future generations.”
He said clear guidelines are needed on how land is developed and protected going forward.
“We need to create opportunities for shared prosperity through development,” he said.
“New development is necessary for our progress as a country, but it must be viewed in the context of future environmental impact, socioeconomic and infrastructure implications, and the benefits and opportunities offered to Caymanians.”
- This story is part of our ‘Seven on Seven’ feature series this week looking at the future of development in Cayman, and in the Seven Mile Beach corridor in particular, from multiple perspectives.