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Wingate slams quarry plan

Environmentalist David Wingate at the site in Hamilton Parish where controversial plans are being made for a quarry (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

A renowned environmentalist has called for a proposed quarry in a protected area to be scrapped.David Wingate said the quarry, which would be sited on a woodland-zoned area on Judkin Lane, Hamilton Parish, was against planning policy.He said: “We can’t afford to simply compromise away until Bermuda is completely urban.“This is why we have planning. This is why we try to plan out how to use the land most efficiently. “Planning has just broken all the rules by ignoring all that went into this zoning.”Dr Wingate said the project could also create a safety risk for residents as the only access to the area was along a narrow, winding road.He added: “You are going to have heavy industrial trucks, which are a real hazard on a narrow lane where people might be walking, and the noise and dust pollution from the quarry; all degrading this large plot of open space because it’s smack in the middle.“The access road is one of the really critical issues that the planning department can’t have thought about.“You can’t use something as long and narrow as Judkin Lane as access to a quarry site.”Dr Wingate said quarrying was in principle allowed on areas zoned as woodland zones because of some planning exceptions.He explained that when the conservation zones were established to protect woodlands and other important environmental resources, some people found all of their property was protected, which meant they were unable to build.He said: “This was grossly unfair, so there had to be something done and in subsequent plans they allowed for some development in places where a person’s private property was totally zoned for woodlands or nature reserve.“That is the reason this particular development was allowed — because it was a case of a person having all their land zoned arable or woodland.”Dr Wingate said a section of the hillside at the proposed quarry had once been developed and ruins were still visible.He said: “Had he applied for a house of 2,000 square feet, probably nobody would have objected.“If he hadn’t stripped the entire property of its woodland and only cleared the area for the house, probably no one would have objected and it would be legal.“What makes this so ridiculously illegal and outrageous is after Hurricane Humberto and there was a shortage of slate, this was used as an excuse to launch a quarry in this area.“They proposed to quarry the entire piece of land. There would be a stepped face cliff all the way around and in the corner there would be a 90ft cliff face.“This essentially will become a 100 per cent quarry operation with no respect for the original zoning of woodland reserve at all. It breaks all the planning laws.”Dr Wingate added that larger blocks of open space were better than small ones, even if they amounted to the same area when combined.He said that the Bermuda National Trust and Bermuda Audubon Society had made efforts to buy up as much undeveloped land as possible, with the help of donors.Dr Wingate added: “When this property initially came up for sale, the National Trust put in a bid for it, but the price was too high and they couldn’t manage the offering price at the time.“In the end, we understand the new buyer got it for less than what it was offered to the trust for. It’s a pity they didn’t ask for a first option.”Dr Wingate said the area where quarrying would take place, now home to dozens of pawpaw trees, had been an allspice forest before it was cleared.He added that allspice trees were invasive, but good “holding” trees for people who wanted to restore woodland to its natural state.The quarry application for the land, owned by Nelson Cordeiro, was made by quarry operator Shawn Perott.The quarry work would be followed by the construction of a house and apartment on the site.Mr Cordeiro explained that the house construction would need a section of the hillside removed and, rather than wasting stone from the site, it could be used to tackle a shortage of roof slate.The proposal was approved by the Development Applications Board in October but the BNT — which owns property on either side of the land, launched an objection.The Bermuda Audubon Society claimed the DAB approval was an “abuse of fair process” and had left area residents unable to lodge protests against the proposal.