BEST Opposes Amendments To Planning Act

July 10, 2021

“BEST urges the public to take a stand and make their voices heard regarding these Amendments to the Planning Act,” the Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Taskforce said.

A spokesperson said, “Bermuda Environmental Taskforce, [BEST], is extremely concerned about the Amendments to the Planning Act tabled in Parliament last week. Under these Amendments, the Government will have the ability to approve future Special Development Orders [SDOs] and Emergency Development Orders by negative resolution. It is understood that this will allow the Minister and Government a possible way to avoid having SDOs tabled and debated in the House before coming into effect.

“It should be noted that this part of the Planning Act was amended in 2011 by the Government to require a positive resolution. An Act brought forward by positive resolution must be tabled, debated and passed before coming into law, whereas a negative resolution does not. BEST strongly urges the Government to withdraw this Bill.

“Minister Walter Roban was the Minister responsible when the 2011 amendment was tabled. He eloquently stated at that time that the amendment would ‘clarify that a Special Development Order is a statutory instrument and thus subject to Parliamentary scrutiny, which would allow for greater transparency and openness of process… Further, it is proposed that the appropriate scrutiny should be via affirmative resolution procedure, thereby enabling the legislature to fully consider and debate all the permissions and conditions to be attached to a Special Development Order.’

“At the second reading of the Amendments, the Minister added that ‘This will ensure transparency of the decision-making process and the ability for Parliament, the Legislature, and the public to comment and openly debate such orders.’ What has changed since 2011?”

Kim Smith, Executive Director of BEST, stated, “We already have a problem where the Minister continues to overturn the DAB and outside advisors’ rulings to approve Planning applications even when those applications are not in our national interest. We actually would like to see that power removed from the Ministerial role, except in the case of a National Emergency.

“With this proposed new Amendment to the Act, the Minister’s power would be greater, as future SDOs will not necessarily come before the House prior to becoming law. Any chance for debate may not occur until the Bill is tabled which can be “as soon as practicable” [as stipulated in the Statutory Instruments Act 1977]. That could in fact be years later.

“In our opinion, even the previous SDO process was subject to poor decision-making. We just have to look at the proposed scale and location of the new St. Regis development, built directly on what had been one of the most photographed, historic beaches in Bermuda, to see an SDO granted that gave way too much away.

“Minister Walter Roban has claimed the Development and Planning Amendment Act 2021 would boost oversight by requiring public consultation of an environmental impact assessment of a proposed development before any SDO, however, ‘public consultation’ is undefined and therefore could consist of one person and Parliament would still not be able to debate it.

“We are concerned that future SDOs will now receive less review and debate. Of imminent concern is the Southampton Princess Resort. We believe that the Southampton Princess’ owners [Gencom, the same owners as Tucker’s Point] have commissioned an environmental study of that property. Therefore we fear it is highly probable that a new SDO will be applied for in near the future.

“The Fairmont Princess SDO of 2009, which was controversial at the time, granted the then-owners rights to develop 130 fractional and residential villas at the Fairmont Southampton at Turtle Hill Hotel. In 2013 during Phase One of that development BEST cautioned that the development “is morphing from a tourist facility into a real estate agency and is selling off its property.” While, fortunately that did not largely come to pass, we remain deeply concerned about the future of that property, based on what has occurred at Tucker’s Point.

“Though we do not know the details, it is possible that a new SDO will permit the property owners to sell off a significant portion of their property for high density residential development. In 2006, the original proposal was to eliminate much of the golf course and build condominiums on that land. In that case, after much opposition, the golf course was saved.

“If Gencom proceeds to request a SDO what will be proposed? Will the golf course remain? Will the hotel itself remain? We will have to wait and see, but these are major decisions that should not side-step a full debate in the Houses of Parliament as that allows for “greater transparency and openness of process”. Therefore, we would like to see the Amendments to the Planning Act 2021 withdrawn.”

“BEST urges the public to take a stand and make their voices heard regarding these Amendments to the Planning Act. The Amendments must be withdrawn for reasons clearly stated by Minister Robain in 2011: ‘This will ensure transparency of the decision-making process and the ability for Parliament, the Legislature, and the public to comment and openly debate such orders.’ Bermudians must have a say before the Government is allowed to pave over paradise.”

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Comments (5)

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  1. Sandgrownan says:

    BEST are spot on with this -

  2. Bermudian says:

    What about all the individuals doing exactly what they want without planning approval and then applying for retrospective approval.. Where are BEST then?

  3. Ringmaster says:

    Remember the days when the PLP were against the foreign ownership of property even to making it necessary to obtain a license if a Bermudian was married to a non Bermudian and wanted to buy a house? Too much land has already been sold off they said. Bermuda for Bermudians was the shout.
    How things have changed. The PLP elite now drink champagne with the people getting permission to sell off land ironically land in Tuckers Town with that history of alleged land grabs. Now the same people are likely to get permission to sell off a large part of the Southampton Princess property, no doubt “to finance the hotel renovation”. Odd how the sell off occurs but not the renovations. PLP selling off Bermuda one SDO (actually multiple SDO’s) at a time. Money and greed is alive and well in PLP Bermuda.

  4. wahoo says:

    One wonders what an SDO is worth to someone with deep pockets….

  5. Joe Bloggs says:

    Minister Roban was correct in 2011.

    After all, the OBA would come to power in less than a year and they could not be trusted to follow the rules.

    Now that the OBA is no longer a threat, we can return to the told ways.