Planning department process to be explained
Free clinics to help people understand planning applications will be held every three months, the Minister of Home Affairs announced.
Walter Roban said the clinics would mean the public can get advice on planning regulations outside normal office hours.
He added it was hoped the scheme would help to streamline processes in the Department of Planning, and make the procedure easier to understand.
Mr Roban said at a press conference on Monday: “The purpose of the planning clinics is to provide members of the public with an opportunity to obtain advice around planning matters which are important to them, any guidance that planning can give them outside of the normal operating hours.
“Our main goal here is to improve planning literacy among the Bermuda public.”
He added that the aim was to increase access to the “knowledgeable” planning team so that property owners can get information and direction on proposed projects.
Mr Roban said: “Through these clinics, the public will be able to get valuable information on new developments, the upgrading of their own properties, the requirements for the upgrading of buildings that are listed, types of applications that a land owner can submit, planning applications in general, building permits, and more.”
The first clinic was held at Southampton Preschool last night.
A central clinic will be held on August 21 at the Horticultural Hall in the Botanical Gardens in Paget and the eastern parishes will be served by a session at Bethel AME Church in Shelly Bay on August 28.
The clinics will run between 5.30pm and 7.30pm.
The minister explained that the planning department had been “instrumental” in the launch of the clinics.
He said that Victoria Pereira, the recently appointed director, and her team were “committed to easing the burden and confusion that many people find with the planning process”.
Mr Roban added that he was concerned that people saw the planning department as “an obstacle” and that the clinics were part of a number of moves to change that perception.
He said: “Our hope is that the planning department will be seen as a valuable resource, and the upcoming planning clinics will serve to be informative and to allow a much more relaxed approach to the construction and development atmosphere of Bermuda.”
Mr Roban added: “Sometimes the planning process is seen as being a bit ominous and grand and intimidating to the average person.
“If you’re somebody who’s never done a development before, or done a renovation to your property, either recently or at all, the idea of perhaps going to a Government department and having to get permission — and you really want to do something — it seems a little bit intimidating and maybe even frustrating.
“There is a process and even though you may want to do something you think is inconsequential, the planning people know the impacts that all types of developments and changes can make.”
Mr Roban said that the clinics would also give the public advice before they go to the expense of hiring professionals to carry out work. He added that a paperless application process had also been launched by the planning department.
He said the high-tech programme, called Energov, was a huge improvement.
Mr Roban added: “They need to have a new system in place, which actually represents the future, using digital technology.”
He said that anyone who wanted to know more about the programme could visit the planning department.
Update This article was updated to show that the first planning clinic was held on August 14.
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