Development & Planning Amendment Act Passes

August 1, 2021 | 0 Comments

The ‘Development and Planning Amendment Act 2021′ Bill was passed in the Senate earlier this week.

Deputy Premier and Minister of Home Affairs Walter Roban said, “As stated by my colleague, Junior Minister Simmons, this Government remains committed to introducing sustainable planning legislation to further protect our delicate environment while introducing measures to stimulate our economy, particularly our construction industry, and encourage new investment.”

“These amendments cover three main items:

  • 1. Introduction of Protected Conservation Areas;
  • 2. Introduction of Emergency Development Orders: and
  • 3. Amendment to the Special Development Order process.

“The aim of introducing a new class of protection for the protected conservation areas is to heighten what is in place for all parcels of particular value, such as:

  • Nature reserves;
  • Actively cultivated arable land
  • Significant portions of woodland
  • Areas that support valuable historical and cultural assets.

“This passing of this Bill enshrine stronger protections for different areas of zoned land, allow for a more efficient response during times of crisis and continues the work to modernise our Planning apparatus,.

“The reason for thise stronger class of protections is simple. The development plan process involves establishing zoning for land. However, zonings are subject to change either by the development plan process itself or via approvals for development granted on appeal to the Minister.

“This amendment will ensure that these areas, once protected, can only be removed by the Legislature via the affirmative resolution procedure.

“The introduction of an emergency development order allows the Government to respond efficiently with development approvals to address a crisis.

“To do this, on a national emergency declaration, the Minister may grant the Order, which enables procedures for the Director to expedite the approval process a development required to address an emergency situation. However, while streamlined and fast-tracked, decisions must not contravene any legislative or policy directives such as building codes.

“Examples of the amendment used in practice are the creation of emergency health infrastructure needed to respond to a health crisis, i.e. pandemic, or the emergency repair or new build of a port or airport infrastructure following a significant storm event.

“Lastly, the amendments also address the Special Development Order [SDO] process. For clarity and understanding, an SDO is a form of planning permission typically granted for large scale projects of national importance that do not comply with existing planning policy or zoning.

“Presently, to introduce or amend an SDO, the Minister must wait until the House sits to table it. This procedural [affirmative resolution procedure] requirement can cause significant delay, which typically equates to economic ramifications that can undermine the viability of a development.

“The amendments seek to provide a far more efficient process and propose the following steps in Order:

  • 1. The global best practice of requiring an environmental impact assessment of the proposed development;
  • 2. Publishing the proposal in the Gazette to allow for a 21 day public consultation period; and then,
  • 3. Following consultation and the Department of Planning’s review, the SDO can be approved via the negative resolution process.

“Bermuda cannot afford to do business inefficiently in today’s competitive world and risk losing interest in new investments. The one thing the COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us of is that we are not immune to the consequences of global impacts. Long delays should not undermine the potential of new opportunities. Bermuda’s planning framework must be agile and reflect international best practices.

“I urge all members of the public to review the draft amendments. I am confident following review and the introduction to the procedures for applying for and SDO are in place, you will agree that we have not sacrificed the due diligence process. The amendments passed will ensure that development proposals are appropriately assessed in terms of social, environmental and economic impact. But instead, we have enhanced transparency and accountability by increasing the public’s engagement with the process. This is consistent with international best practice and will not be in law.

“In summary, the proposed amendments form a vital element of the streamlining measures initiative announced initially in May 2019 to bring greater efficiency to the Department of Planning’s processes and service delivery to the public and ultimately to provide a conducive regulatory framework to support new investment while protecting our environmental assets.

“Lastly, I would like to thank the Director of Planning, Ms. Victoria Pereira and her team and Ms. Amani Lawrence Parliamentary Counsel, who drafted the legislation.”

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