Government accused of pushing quarry plan
Conservation groups have accused the Government of forcing through a controversial application for a quarry operation in a pristine natural spot.
The Bermuda Audubon Society claimed the go-ahead given to the proposal at Judkin Lane, Hamilton Parish, was an “abuse of fair process” which left residents unable to voice concerns.
The Bermuda National Trust said the plan — which it has described as a “massive industrial process” that would “undoubtedly adversely impact” the surrounding sensitive lands — had not been given proper scrutiny because of how the application was handled.
Home affairs minister Walter Roban said that he was not prepared to comment on the complaints at a press conference yesterday.
He added: “As would be publicly known, that application is the subject of an appeal.”
The Development Applications Board gave planning permission limited to one year for quarrying at the site last month.
The quarrying application for the property, owned by Nelson Cordeiro, was made by quarry operator Shawn Perott.
A spokeswoman for the BNT confirmed yesterday that the group had appealed the decision. The BAS has backed the appeal.
Karen Border, the president of the BAS, said in a letter to The Royal Gazette: “There was a clear failure of fair process in the handling of the quarry application.”
Ms Border said that planning notices are published in the Official Gazette every Friday — but that the application for the quarry had been published on Wednesday, October 9.
She added that the quarry application was not included in the list published on October 11 of applications registered between October 3 and October 10.
Ms Border added: “A review of all prior notices available online, dating back to November 2, 2018, has revealed that no other planning application but this one has been omitted from the Friday list.
“As a result, several concerned parties, including the BAS, were unable to register objections because we were unaware of the quarry application until the time window for objecting had expired.”
She said that the public right to review planning applications must be respected “by gazetting such notices in a transparent and regular fashion”.
Mr Border added: “That did not happen in this instance.”
The BNT spokeswoman said: “The application was not advertised as normal, nor were the details clear, meaning that many of the neighbours and other concerned conservation bodies were denied their right to provide input.”
The BNT said it submitted its objection on October 23 and that the board approved the application less than 48 hours later.
The spokeswoman said: “Its contents and concerns could not have possibly been given the proper scrutiny, analysis or consideration.”
She said that the impact of noise, traffic, air quality and runoff on local wildlife had not been established.
Mr Roban told the media that all the processes that involved development were a matter of public record.
He added: “Anyone can go and see the whole process. The file is open to those who wish to view it.
“There’s no secret as to the process around these sort of applications.”
The minister confirmed that talks had taken place about the use of historic quarries in Hamilton Parish for slate.
He said: “We were contacted by other owners in the area ... who were prepared to make their sites available to us for quarrying.”
He added: “There was a choice made that it wasn’t necessary to take advantage of their offer.
“We were appreciative of the offer — but it was just not taken up.”
Mr Roban called the press conference to give information on the Government’s role in quarrying. He said that there had been a “serious increase” for slate after Hurricane Humberto in September.
However, he could not say how many homes in Bermuda still had unrepaired damage caused by the storm.
Mr Roban said: “That’s not a number that we would have. Those persons don’t come in to report to us.”
He said that government departments had been working together to make sure the slate demand is “adequately serviced”.
Mr Roban added that work was being done by the Department of Planning to offer an incentive to those who choose to quarry a site prior to development.
He said: “We expect that it will include some form of rebate on quarrying fees and other associated permit fees — all dependent on the quality of stone at the particular site.”
Mr Roban emphasised that Government does not sell slate, or determine how much or when quarry operators cut slate.
He said: “The supply of slate is a private-sector matter.”
• To view Walter Roban’s statement, click on the PDF link under “Related Media”
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