Planning Department officials discuss solutions to delays.
Council representatives – especially those in the building, architecture, and planning fields – sat down with Ministry and Planning department representatives recently to discuss solutions to the long delays that have prevented projects from being completed on time.
In 2022 the Council submitted a list of specific issues relating to delays in getting plans passed and certificates of occupancy issues in a letter to Minister of Planning Hon Jay Ebanks. The recent meeting was a good opportunity to explore ways in which the Ministry, Planning Department and the Construction sector, working together, could explore ways of resolving them.
Chamber representatives included President, Nelson Dilbert, Secretary Dave Johnson, Managing Director of Corporate Electric, and Councilor Dan Definis, Head of Cayman Contractors Association met with Planning representatives including Parliamentary Secretary Isaac Rankin, Director of Planning, Haroon Pandohie, Acting Chief Officer, Andrea Fa’amoe, and Deputy Chief Officer Tristan Hydes.
The concerns focused on operations of the Planning Department and the Building and Control Unit because delays concerning electrical and building inspections are weeks behind for many projects. Rising lending rates have exacerbated the problem, increasing project costs to a point where the project may no longer be viable.
During Covid, virtual inspections worked well. The Council representatives asked to see these reinstated to speed up processing times. Mr. Pandohie confirmed that virtual inspections are still available, and can be requested by applicants, although it was acknowledged that this facility
might not have been publicized widely enough with contractors.
The impact of “failed inspections” because of minor technical issues that are easily resolved, requesting a change allowing inspectors to approve corrections made on site was also discussed. Pandohie said there was already a mechanism for this, called “In field Change Protocol” whichcould be reintroduced.
Discussions highlighted the need for a system to rate service providers, so that those who are underperforming or shown to be incompetent can be flagged. Hydes also recommended that members of the construction sector take the same exams which Department of Planning staff take to increase consistency between sector and inspectors, thereby addressing the disparity in standards and resulting delays.
Representatives asked if there was any way to increase staffing resources to speed up processing times. Department of Planning representatives said that more inspectors were presently being recruited. They shared a recent recommendation that third parties – private sector firms – should be able to engage in the review process, however, uptake has been limited. At present, there is only one local firm that provides this service. In addition, there have been many instances in the past of the third-party inspectors making decisions and giving approval for things outside of their authority that could have resulted in health and safety consequences, and which ended up in even longer delays. Planning delays are impacting the economy by increasing construction costs.
There was discussion was had about the errors in drawings, or inconsistencies between drawing and what was built, and Department of Planning representatives emphasized need to bridge the knowledge gap between sector and code requirements, and additional challenges that were faced when international contractors are hired, who are not as familiar with Cayman’s code.