Southlands/Morgans Point — compromise reached

*Photo by Leah Furbert

Plans for an extravagant 300-suite resort, featuring apartments built into the cliffs, were approved by SDO in July 2007. Middle East developer Jumeirah — responsible for the iconic sail-shaped Burj-Al-Arab hotel in Dubai — was on board for the development, which would have included five restaurants, a nightclub and an equestrian centre. Protesters were horrified that the development would have paved over untouched woodland and diverted traffic on the scenic south shore drive through a tunnel. After a protracted public stand-off Government agreed to an historic compromise swapping the 80-acre disused naval base at Morgan’s Point for the pristine Southlands estate. The current plan is for a resort to be built at Morgan’s Point and Southlands to be opened to the public as a national park. Observers say the deal, if finalized, will be a ‘win-win’ for environmentalists and developers.

Dockyard cruise ship pier — government rebuked

*Photo by Jamie MacMillan

Dockyard Cruise Ship Pier — The state-of-the art Cruise Ship Pier in the west end required radical alterations to the landscape, including land reclamation from the sea.
In its haste to get the job done before the start of the tourism season, Government went ahead with phase two of the pier and terminal building construction without final planning permission or the required environmental impact studies being carried out.
They tabled an SDO but withdrew the order when it became clear that related paperwork would not be completed on time. Instead they got the job done and then applied for retroactive planning permission. The DAB granted the application but rebuked the Government for ‘blatant disregard’ of the process.

Sonesta/Wyndham — remains an eyesore

*Photo by Kageaki Smith

Wyndham/Sonesta Beach – Three separate SDOs have been granted for the Southampton property since 2003.
The latest in 2006 was designed to help turn the vacant property into a five-star resort called the Southampton Beach Club that would have featured a 150-room hotel and tourist villas.
The SDO was not particularly controversial as the land was already used for a hotel and the additional infringement on the area was minor.
However the old hotel has since been razed, while financing for the project has apparently fallen through, leaving the site as a rubble-strewn eyesore with little prospect of new development on the horizon.

Warwick beach bar —  flopped after court fight

*Photo by Sirkka Huish

Not an SDO, but the proposed beach bar development at Warwick Long Bay is cited by environmentalists as another example of Government’s willingness to skirt planning law in an effort to encourage tourism development.
The plan – submitted by entrepreneur Belcario Thomas — would have seen a beach bar and restaurant operate during the summer season at the south shore beach.
The DAB turned the proposal down but then Environmnet Minister Glenn Blakeney approved it on appeal. Campaign group BEST took Government to court and had the minister’s decision overturned.

Tucker’s Point — ink on SDO still drying

*Photo by Kageaki Smith

The SDO, finally approved by the Senate on Friday, was the fourth such order given to Tucker’s Point resort to build on land overlooking Castle Harbour. This was the most controversial because it involved changing the status of conservation-zoned land. Opponents also point out that this SDO came just a year after Bermuda’s overarching development plan — setting out the zoning for the entire island — was completed.

Grand Atlantic — work in progress

*Photo supplied

Successive SDOs were granted last year for a $150million development to build a 100-room nine-storey hotel and 125 homes on cliffs overlooking the South Shore. Protesters complained that part of the land was zoned for ‘tourism and woodland reserve’ but the SDO was granted and building work has begun.

Coco Reef — no visible progress

*Photo by Leah Furbert

Coco Reef, Paget —  In January, 2008, a Special Development Order was granted for 66 luxury holiday villas to be built at the South Shore property.
The National Trust and others objected to the development on the grounds that it encroached on woodland and the coastline and was the third major development to be approved on the south shore in the space of a year, via an SDO. Included in the initial plans was a ‘man-made’ river through the woodland, connecting two infinity pools.
At the time owner John Jefferis argued an SDO was needed “because we’re hoping to move swiftly on this”. Work has yet to begin.

St. Regis, Hamilton — no visible progress

*Bermuda Sun file photo

Luxury five-star chain Ritz Carlton signed a deal in 2007 to build a hotel on the site of the Par-La-Ville car park. An SDO was granted allowing nine-stories, though Bermuda planning laws, designed to prevent Hong Kong style skycrapers from blotting the island skyline, permits a maximum of seven stories for city developers. At the time Greenrock described the SDO as a mechanism to ‘grant guaranteed approval without public process’. The original backer Ritz Carlton has since pulled out and the current plan is for a St Regis hotel, though no work has begun.

Research by James Whittaker. Sources: Greenrock, National Trust, PLP website, planning officers, Bermuda Sun, The Royal Gazette and Bernews archives.


Special report: Special Development Orders