Colonel Burch statement
Burch delivers good news for farm
Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch said he would investigate “all sorts of questions” arising from the Westover Farm saga.
The public works minister confirmed yesterday that the notice to quit the Sandys farm had been cancelled after he talked with tenants Richard Bascome Jr and his son, also Richard.
The family had faced an uncertain future after they were told the Bermuda Government would take back the land on December 1, because their agreement on the farm had run out 17 months previously.
Colonel Burch told the House yesterday: “So it was earlier this year that I learnt of a Bermudian farmer whose lease had expired prior to the General Election in 2017.
“Ministers would not naturally know about this lease, or any lease, until they are presented for signature because leases come under the remit of the Estates Department.
“The fact that the Bascome family were only told in May of this year that their lease had expired 17 months ago and they were then given six months, from June 1, 2018, to leave — raises all sorts of questions.
“It would be appropriate for me to investigate why the Bascome family were not told much earlier that their lease would be up in 2017 and it would also be appropriate for me to find out why they were being given a date to relocate.”
Colonel Burch pointed to the role of senior civil servants when a new government takes over.
He said: “The Civil Service has an important role in readying themselves for a change whenever a General Election takes place. Usually the Secretary to the Cabinet prepares two dossiers, explaining how they will accommodate each party’s agenda.
“Such preparation would allow a new government, if there was a change, to be presented with a full outline of government projects currently under way and of those still awaiting decision in each particular ministry.
“This would enable a new minister to determine how his or her ministry could accommodate the newly elected government’s agenda.”
Colonel Burch said of his meeting with the Bascome brothers: “We discussed the potential development of the 9 Beaches property next door and their farming plans for the future.
“We also discussed advances in farming technology to better manage the smell from cow manure and I offered and they accepted to meet with specialist technical officers in the ministry who have some expertise in waste management and disposal. That introduction has already occurred and a meeting is scheduled for this very afternoon.
“I indicated to them that this government would not displace them or cause their business to close and that I believed there was a way forward that required discussion with my Cabinet colleagues and that I would be in further communication following and we agreed to meet again.
“I am pleased to report that Government has taken the decision and instructed the Bermuda Land Development Company who have oversight of the 9 Beaches Property to inform, up front, to any potential developer that the farm will not be moved and its presence next door must be considered with any development.
“Yesterday, I informed Mr Bascome III that the notice to quit had been cancelled and arranged to meet next week to discuss the way forward.”
Colonel Burch also refuted the Bermuda Farmers’ Association’s claim that all land leases for all government-owned farm lands had not been renewed for more than three years.
He said 13 out of 45 leases appeared to be lapsed.
• To read Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch’s statement in full, click on the PDF under “Related Media”
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