WEDNESDAY, OCT. 24:

Hotel Development: Tucker’s Point, Park Hyatt

Housing:                    Grand Atlantic

Industrial:                 Devonshire Marsh

Recreation:               Scrambler track, dog parks

 

All the above, individually, seem to be reasonable, and in some cases, necessary developments; BUT, without appropriate planning and stringent monitoring, piecemeal developments needlessly eat away at Bermuda’s limited and dwindling bank of irreplaceable and health-sustaining open spaces.

Bermuda’s open spaces and environmental assets have an important role to play in ensuring the success of both the economy and society, including attracting tourists, ensuring that Bermuda remains an appealing location to do business, maintaining local fisheries and sustaining the health and wellness of residents.

Despite laudable objectives and ample policies to protect and preserve Bermuda’s public and private amenity areas via zoning restrictions, there continues to be steady and growing development pressure and encroachment on these resources.

The State of the Environment Report, commissioned by the Ministry of the Environment in 2005, cites a 21% reduction of conservation lands from 1970 to 2000.1  The Report states that increased development pressure has been primarily on Bermuda’s undeveloped land, despite a bank of over 700 acres of “brown field” (previously developed) sites. Additional acres of open space have been lost from 2000 to the present, mostly through ministerial over-turns, SDOs and other weaknesses in our current planning and legal system.  

Each of the previous Plans, as well as the current Bermuda Plan 2008 and a growing volume of commissioned reports, advisory bodies and town hall meetings, document and declare the importance of protecting Bermuda’s environmental assets as ”the key to achieving a sustainable future for Bermuda”.

Of the respondents to the Bermuda 2000 questionnaire, 74% considered it “very important” to prevent further development of open spaces. Similarly, in the 2005 Public Perception Study on Sustainable Development, 85% of respondents expressed “concern”, with 56% and 66% of respondents respectively indicating that the protection of open space and the marine environment are “critically important” to the long-term success of Bermuda. 

BEST is strongly supportive of the intent of the 2008 Bermuda Plan to preserve and protect Bermuda’s conservation and protection areas. However, we find it counter-productive that policies and regulations sometimes contain qualifiers and exemptions that may render them practically meaningless.

As an example, Section 34 of the Development and Planning Act 1974 has enabled Environment Ministers to enter into what was intended to be environmentally favourable covenants with landowners. Recent applications have shown that the discretion accorded Ministers allows for amendments to these covenants in ways that negate the original agreements and even contradict the spirit of the law.

BEST believes that weaknesses within the Bermuda Plan 2008, which potentially put our remaining conservation areas at risk, be strengthened and that development be required to strictly comply with established zoning policies and regulations.

BEST also believes that Ministerial discretions in the Development Act 1974 must be tightened to steer decisions on Special Development Orders, appeals, creation and amendment of Section 34 agreements toward upholding and away from undermining the strategic objectives of the Bermuda Plan 2008, which are designed to preserve our natural resources.

• Written by members of the BEST research team led by: Alaina Cubbon, Stuart Hayward, Frances Marshall and Marlie Powell.