Wingate backs BEST on Golden Hind erosion

  • <B>Cliff erosion</B> at the former site of the Golden Hind restaurant.

    Cliff erosion at the former site of the Golden Hind restaurant.
    (Photo by Russell Eddy)

Environmentalist Dr David Wingate expressed concern about the safety of a South Shore construction project.

While site developers have maintained that the Grand Atlantic development is safe, the project has come under fire from the Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Taskforce (BEST), who believe erosion on a nearby cliff could threaten the buildings.

In a statement released by BEST, Dr Wingate said: “I know of no other location on Bermuda that is more prone to rapid erosion than this particular site.”

The project, a low cost housing development, is being built as a part of the $150 million Grand Atlantic Resort development on the former Golden Hind site in Warwick.

Work on the first 24 of the 125 planned affordable homes began in September.

According to Dr Wingate, a former Government Conservation Officer, two low cost housing units at the site are 16 metres from the cliff face, putting the buildings in serious risk within the next 25 to 50 years unless much is done to protect the cliff.

“Although the developers have Planning permission to build an anti-erosional ‘toe wall’ or seawall at the base of the cliff and have since stated that they intend to harden the entire cliff face by coating it with gunnited concrete, I would argue that the scale of engineering works required to withstand a major hurricane would have to be so great that it would cost as much or more than the cost of building the housing units,” Dr Wingate said.

“I’m not saying it can’t be done. These days, almost anything is possible engineering-wise. The real issue here is not whether it can be done, but whether the developers and the Government have factored in the immense cost of doing so in a way that could genuinely prevent any further hurricane erosion.”

He said the site is impacted dramatically by strong storms, with half a metre of land lost during each major storm and a total of 3m lost in the last 25 years.

“In a few places only 1m of erosion may have occurred, but in others the cliff has been cut back by 4-5m,” he said.

“Of course the actual rate of erosion that will occur over the next 25 years cannot be accurately predicted because it will depend on how many hurricanes come close enough to Bermuda to cause catastrophic damage, and that is beyond the realm of predictability.

“But, it is possible to envision a worst-case scenario of a direct hit category 5 hurricane that could erode that cliff nearly back to the buildings in one catastrophic event.”

Developers have said the cliff could be protected, but Dr Wingate questioned how the reinforcements would alter the area’s appearance.

“It is appropriate to enquire also whether the Bermudian public and our tourist visitors would appreciate having our beautiful South Shore coastline modified into the monolithic concrete seawall that would be required.”

BEST Chairman Stuart Hayward criticised how the project, which was granted a Special Development Order (SDO) had been brought though the Planning process.

“The issuance of an SDO, while sometimes necessary, typically prevents the public from knowing about and having input into the developmental decision until after it has been made,” he said.

“In this case, concerns about environmental, economic and social issues appear to have been inadequately addressed before the SDO was issued.

“Government leaders could save themselves and the developers considerable angst by either issuing a draft SDO, as was done at Southlands, or by initiating committed stakeholder consultation prior to taking a developmental decision.”

While developer Gilbert Lopes has not, as of press time, commented on Dr Wingate’s statement, he has previously said that safety concerns about the cliff are unfounded.

According to a report released by Mr Lopes last year, Keith Hodgkins of Onsite Engineering Services Ltd said 12 boreholes were drilled to depths of between 25ft to 62ft at the site as a part of a comprehensive geotechnical report, which made recommendations on building setback, foundation types, elevation and recommendations to avoid future cliff erosion.

In the report, Mr Hodgkins said: “Onsite Engineering Services Ltd can assure G.L. Construction and the future tenants that the cliff stabilization techniques we have provided for will prevent future undermining of the existing cliff face.”

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Published Jan 19, 2011 at 8:34 am (Updated Jan 19, 2011 at 8:32 am)

Wingate backs BEST on Golden Hind erosion

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