(CNS): A long-standing court case over a dispute over rights to access a public beach on land owed by the Dart Group that has been heard behind closed doors so far is emerging after the courts have decided that the case should no longer be ex part. Cayman Shores, which was behind the development of the Kimpton Hotel, has fought to close at least four public access points along Seven Mile Beach, near the hotel and the hotel’s own home. Ken Dart, near the West Bay Road tunnel.
The developer, one of several companies owned by Dart, had managed to keep the case out of public view, regardless of its importance to the community. But despite the secrecy surrounding Dart’s lawsuit, it has come to the attention of the Concerned Citizens Group, local activists who have long championed access rights to public beaches.
In 2019, they asked the court to intervene on behalf of the people in what is clearly a matter of public interest. They have since managed to make their voices heard, but it has been a long battle to get to the point where the matter no longer takes place behind closed doors.
However, on Friday, the press and the public will for the first time have the opportunity to observe the case for themselves when questions relating to Dart’s challenge to a decision by the Land Registrar denying the request to relocate the lands. access points will be heard by justice. Margaret Ramsay-Hale.
Originally four rights of way were in question, which are a combination of registered pedestrian and vehicular access points that were reserved at specific locations for the benefit of the Caymanian public many years ago. Dart has since withdrawn its application on two of these access points but it is understood that they are both still inaccessible to the public.
Despite the Registrar’s denial, local activists remain concerned that the previous government amended relevant land and planning laws to accommodate the interests of Dart and other developers along Seven Mile Beach. This, they say, made it easier to switch access points to benefit their projects and opened up the possibility of legal challenges even in cases where the access points are supposed to be set in stone.
A spokesperson for the activists said they believed the case was the “tip of the proverbial iceberg”. They believe that the public must fight for access rights as they are continually eroded by regulatory changes and, on a case-by-case basis, progressive deviations from the rules, resulting in the piecemeal removal of public access to the beach.
Judge Ramsay-Hale resumed cases in February 2021, when she approved the intervention of affected citizens and opened the case, lifting the ex part status. The Public Lands Commission will also now be part of the tribunal hearing in its role as official protector of beach access rights.
This case is one of many ongoing legal battles over the growing loss of access to the beach. The outcome will have implications for those cases, as well as for the future of Caymanians’ rights to access the beach. The continued conflict created by the overdevelopment of the waterfront, where owners want to restrict and prohibit the right of people to access and use the beach, is now well documented and is becoming a priority issue for many Caymanians.
With the case now public, authorities have confirmed that the hearing will be held in Kirk House Courtroom 4 at 10 a.m. to welcome the press and the public, and not in chambers as previously indicated.