Scaled down plans to address coastal erosion at John Smith’s Bay approved
Caves at John Smith’s Bay are set to be largely filled in after slightly scaled-down plans to address coastal erosion at the beach were approved.
Plans originally submitted proposed completely filling a series of caves on the eastern side of the Smith’s beach with concrete, but the approved plans would leave a small overhang.
A report by a Department of Planning technical officer recommended the revised plan be approved.
The report said: “Given on-site conditions, it is clear that some form of coastal protection is required.
“The design proposed has balanced the need for mitigation with the need to ensure the natural environment and aesthetics of this popular beach destination are maintained for tourists and locals alike.
“This is considered to be a long-term solution which is relatively simple to construct with minimal destruction to the surroundings.”
The plans were formally approved at a meeting of the DAB on September 15, with no questions or comments raised, according to the minutes of the meeting.
The Government filed an application to fill in the caves in June to address continued erosion which created a potential threat to those who go inside the caves and the property above.
Environmental groups including the Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Taskforce and the Bermuda Audubon Society voiced concerns about the plans, which they felt would negatively impact the beach.
However, a representative for Brunel Ltd, the agents behind the project, said the caves were a threat to public safety.
The representative said in a letter: “These caves are a result of ongoing erosion which is demonstrated by surveys undertaken by the Ministry of Public Works over a number of years.
“Recent activity has resulted in rock falls along this cliff edge on to the beach. The consequence of this erosion is an increasing risk of danger to the public and loss of property at the top of the cliff.
“This is a present danger to the public whom, as the BAS have indicated, use the caves for shade.”
The letter added that “soft measures” such as signs would not stop people from using the caves and the solution proposed would ensure long-term stability.
A terrestrial conservation officer with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources recommended a middle ground be found between the original proposal and “doing very little”.
He said the upper rock layer was “tightly bound” and had withstood several major storms, but the erosion of the weaker lower portion should be addressed.
He said: “[It] would reduce the infill of mass concrete to approximately half of what is proposed.
“There would continue to be an overhanging lip of strong rock but this would be shored up by the structural mass concrete inside the rock lip at approximately the ‘three o’clock’ shadow line.”
The National Parks Commission meanwhile said that the caves had “significant aesthetic and cultural value” and agreed with the DENR that there was room for compromise.
The commission added that while there was not a legal requirement for an environmental impact assessment for the project, one should be required for a project of this nature.
Brunel Ltd responded that the infill could not be set as far back as suggested by the DENR, but submitted a revised plan that would leave a one-foot overhang.
A representative said: “The proposed solution will not materially alter the local environment, there will be no changes in the flows or erosion and deposition effects in environment of the South Shore.
“The stabilisation will be effective in extreme weather events, during which the effect will be globally insignificant but will prevent permanent property loss and damage.
“We believe that the protection works as provided are sympathetic to the environment and appropriate to the location.”
The DAP report found that the coastal protection measures were “essential to the maintenance, conservation, enhancement and enjoyment” of the beach, and there would be no negative environmental impact.