Criticism of Minister’s development decision grows

  • Minister of Health Zane De Silva speaks at a press conference yesterday regarding the Lady Cubitt Compassionate Association (LCCA).(Photo by Mark Tatem)

    Minister of Health Zane De Silva speaks at a press conference yesterday regarding the Lady Cubitt Compassionate Association (LCCA).(Photo by Mark Tatem)

  • Former Environment Minister Walter Roban.

    Former Environment Minister Walter Roban.

Criticism is mounting over a Minister’s decision to approve an application to build warehouses on Devonshire Marsh.

Planning officials had rejected the proposal, made by Zanzara Trust which covers Health Minister Zane DeSilva’s Island Construction, to build the warehouses because of significant discrepancies and not enough information on the environmental impact of the project. But Walter Roban, on his last day as Environment Minister, upheld Zanzara Trust’s appeal against the rejection. And that, says the Opposition One Bermuda Alliance, was unethical.

“It is our belief that the latest approval in principle by the then outgoing Minister of Environment, Minister Roban, in respect of granting Planning permission to a fellow Cabinet Minister is unethical,” said Shadow Environment Minister Michael Fahy.

“The timing of the approval is very suspicious. It certainly does not stand up to the sunshine of public scrutiny and does not, in our view, fulfil the expectations set by the Premier in respect of her Cabinet that things would now be different.”

Mr Fahy goes on to say that the country deserves an explanation as to why the Minister ignored the advice of his technical officers.

“Was this discussed at Cabinet? Who knew about this? We believe that Bermuda needs answers. Being silent does not mean the issue will simply go away,” he continued.

“The OBA is very much in favour of a comprehensive overhaul of Planning laws, rules and regulations to not just streamline the planning and appeals process, but also to curtail the ability of Environment Ministers to make such strange decisions. That is real change.”

Charlie Swan, who was elected as a United Bermuda Party MP, echoed the OBA’s concerns.

“If we have technical officers saying that so much basic information is missing from the original application, and significant discrepancies between the application and the site plan that’s blatant,” Mr Swan said.

“Why does he [Minister Roban] and he alone, feel that the conditions at Planning were satisfied? Was he privy to additional information not included in the application? Is he aware of the discrepancies between the application and the site plan?

“What confidence are we to have in the Minister of the Environment, in preserving and protecting whatever open space we have left for future generations?”

The Bermuda National Trust, one of the objectors to the development application, last night joined the growing chorus of criticism. President, William White, said the Trust objected because the proposed development was not in its view compatible with the “environmental, visual and amenity value of the site or neighbouring undeveloped nature reserves.”

“Approval of this application on appeal is very concerning as the Planning Inspectorate, the Development Applications Board and the Department of Planning staff all recommended that it be refused/dismissed,” he said.

“In addition, the Department of Planning and other Government technical officers consistently stated that the application provided minimal and inconsistent information and as a result was not complete enough to be properly assessed.”

Mr White continued: “Devonshire Marsh is a vitally important wetland habitat on top of Bermuda’s largest aquifer. Instead of intensifying industrial development within the marsh, the Bermuda National Trust feels that it would be in everyone’s benefit if all efforts be made toward enforcing Bermuda’s existing environmental legislation and policies, to stop creeping encroachment and degradation of scarce open space.”

And he called for a “comprehensive national plan that incorporates the appropriate placement of industrial and commercial activities on Bermuda’s landscape in such a manner that supports the existing national plan to conserve our unique environment and community green spaces.”

Yesterday, Minister DeSilva declined to discuss the matter when approached by The Royal Gazette. Minister Roban, now in charge of Public Works, has also not responded to our requests for comments.

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Published Nov 16, 2011 at 9:03 am (Updated Nov 16, 2011 at 9:02 am)

Criticism of Minister’s development decision grows

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