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The Chair and Members of the Public Lands Commission. L to R: Ms. Carla Reid, Mr. Teddie Ebanks, Mrs. Ezmie Smith, Mr. J. Robert Bodden, Mr. Stran Bodden, Mrs. Christina McTaggart-Pineda, and Chair of the Public Lands Commission, Mr. Rupert Vasquez who is the Director of Lands and Survey. Missing from the photo is PLC Member, Mr. Temple Cleveland Tatum.

Published 31st January 2018, 11:39am

In May 2017 the Public Lands Law (2017) was enacted, and this allowed for the establishment of a Public Lands Commission (PLC). The purpose of the PLC is to regulate the use and enjoyment of public land in the public interest and to implement the Government’s policies in respect to the regulation of public lands. It also has the authority to issue permits for the use of commercial activities and organized events on public lands and respond to complaints regarding the use or misuse of public land.

Appointed with a two year term, the Chair of the Public Lands Commission is designated by law as the Director of Lands and Survey, Mr. Rupert Vasquez. The Commission consists of the following seven (7) other members as specified under the Public Lands Law: the Chief Officer of Tourism Mr. Stran Bodden; Chair of the Tourism Attraction Board Ms. Carla Reid; Mr. J. Robert Bodden; Mr. Teddie Ebanks; Mrs. Christina McTaggart-Pineda; Mrs. Ezmie Smith; and Mr. Temple Cleveland Tatum.

Minister for Lands the Hon. Juliana O’Connor-Connolly remarked, “One of the Government’s priorities is to ensure that our people benefit from a healthy environment, which means we want to continue to ensure that beach access is maintained and managed to the benefit of locals and visitors alike. While the Commission is in its developing stage and there are still regulatory and policy matters to be finalised, it is tasked with protecting the right of access to and use of public land by members of the public, including enforcement of public rights of way over private land.”

PLC Chair, Mr. Vasquez said, “The Public Lands Commission has met three times and is made up of an eager and committed group of individuals who I look forward to working with. We intend to co-ordinate the implementation of the law fully, including consultation with Government in relation to making Regulations for the Public Lands Law. The Commission has been provided with draft Regulations for consultation and they will govern the public conduct and use of public spaces and protection of public lands; the Regulations are absolutely necessary in order for the Commission to fulfil its role. We look forward to bringing forth recommendations to the Ministry of Lands in order that the Regulations may be approved by Cabinet.”

Mr. Vasquez added, “The Commission is aware of the various media reports, concerns and interests that have been generated in respect to public beach accesses across our Islands, and I confirm that this is also a matter of high priority for the Commission. The PLC is the designated Government authority which can apply to the Grand Court for the settlement of public right of way access disputes arising under The Prescription Law, and it can deal with unregistered public accesses to the beach.”

In addition to the establishment of the Commission, the Public Lands Law also allows for the appointment of staff to assist the Commission in their duties and for an inspectorate regime to assist with the enforcement of the Public Lands Law. The Law allows for the appointment of a Chief Inspector, additional Inspectors, and a Secretary to the PLC. The Chief Inspector may also designate various officers from Government statutory authorities, companies or departments such as the Department of Commerce and Investment or Department of Environment for example as Deputy Inspectors to assist in the enforcement of this Law.

These positions have been approved in the Ministry of Lands’ 2018 Budget, and they will assist in the enforcement of the Law and provide administrative support to the PLC. It is anticipated that the recruitment process for these posts will commence within the next quarter.

The Commission is cognizant of the importance of the proper use of public lands and will strive to ensure that the Law and its Regulations, once passed by Cabinet, are implemented in a fair and equitable manner. As the PLC shares the public’s desire to have various public land matters addressed in a timely manner, meetings of the PLC will be held as frequently as possible in order to ensure that the necessary procedures are in place to implement the spirit of the Public Lands Law.

“As the Public Lands Commission begins its journey to regulate the use of public lands to the benefit of the people of the Cayman Islands, I trust that the 2017 Beach Access Report- which will shortly be released to the Commission and the general public- will be a key reference tool to assist it in taking action for situations such as protecting the right of access to and use of public land,” stated Minister O’Connor-Connolly. The Report can also be used as a reference to gather evidence with which to apply to the Grand Court on behalf of the public for the settlement of public right of way access disputes.

The PLC and Ministry of Education, Youth, Sports, Agriculture and Lands recognise the importance of keeping the general public informed on the development of this new reform, as well as providing stakeholders with clarity on the new Law in order to ensure compliance.

Members of the public may access a copy of the Public Lands Law (2017) by visiting the documents and law tab at www.caymanlandinfo.ky. Queries and complaints regarding the Public Lands Law may be sent to the Public Land Commission at plc@gov.ky. Alternatively, correspondence may be sent to the Chair of the Public Lands Commission by physical delivery to the Government Administration Building or via postal delivery to PO Box 1089, Grand Cayman, KY1-1102 Cayman Islands.