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Developers want to build 13 homes on old water catchment near secluded woodland

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Planning approval is being sought for a residential development at the top of White Crest Hill in Hamilton Parish (Photograph supplied)

A secluded site on a wooded hilltop with a controversial development history is in line for a residential development.

But a spokesman for the developer of the 21-acre site on White Crest Hill in Hamilton Parish highlighted that plans for 13 residential plots were much more modest than the number already approved by planning authorities.

The spokesman told The Royal Gazette: “We feel that a lower-density approach with more emphasis on green spaces and conservation is consistent with protecting and enhancing our shared environment.”

Documents filed on February 10 with the Department of Planning by Botelho Wood Architects asked for a boundary adjustment at the site located on a hill west of the Mid Ocean Club’s golf course.

A 2011 Special Development Order, which turned the area around Tucker’s Point into a battleground for conservationists, gave approval for 45 homes spread across 40.5 acres of the site.

The order passed by Parliament also allowed for 38 homes on 21.38 acres of White Crest Hill instead of the now-planned 13.

The new plan also proposes a 5.1-acre conservation area – said by architects to be “a conservation gain of 2.4 acres over the existing zoning”.

The White Crest Hill developer is linked to the 2020 exclusive residential development at Riddell’s Bay – a former golf club in Warwick that closed its doors in 2016.

The spokesman told the Gazette that the developer, led by “a Bermudian group”, bought the White Crest Hill property about 18 months ago.

He said the site was “fully developable land”.

The spokesman added: "Site works have been ongoing for some time and we expect sales to commence during the second quarter of 2022."

White Crest Hill, once known as Catchment Hill, has a long history of development disputes.

Its old name came from the large water catchment built in the 1930s for the former Castle Harbour Hotel.

The disused and partly overgrown catchment is surrounded by woodland largely untouched since the 1920s.

The former Catchment Hill site (File photograph)

Catchment Hill also falls in the Tucker’s Town area of St George’s and Hamilton Parishes – once home to a rural Black community forced out in the 1920s to make way for tourism development.

Anger over the mass compulsory purchases of land was evident at the Commission of Inquiry into Historic Land Losses, which issued its findings last year.

The expropriation of land at Tucker’s Town was said to be legal because it had the backing of Parliament.

But the commission’s report said procedures for the expropriations were “in many instances irregular because the bodies established to oversee the expropriations process exercised their power in an unfair and inequitable manner”.

In the early 1990s, Catchment Hill was caught up in another controversy in the early 1990s after Bermuda Properties said it wanted to build up to 150 homes on the site.

Environmentalists who opposed the plan celebrated when the proposal got turned down by the Development Applications Board in 1995.

The 2011 Tucker’s Point SDO was also opposed by the environmental lobby.

But it had the backing of the Progressive Labour Party government of the day, which argued that development in the area was vital for keeping the Tucker’s Point resort in business.

The Mid Ocean Club was able to block the proposal for Catchment Hill, under a 2000 agreement with Tucker’s Point for the preservation of its woodland and nature reserve.

A revised SDO, approved in 2011, covered several packages of property around Tucker’s Point, including what is now White Crest Hill.

The 21-acre site still has the SDO’s approval for development.

The development plans included moving “3.2 acres of conservation zoning to a green belt, as an amenity for the enjoyment of all lots”, with a further 1.9 acres of conservation area to be used as “a development buffer”.

The proposal will also reduce the paved roadway at White Crest Hill by about 2,000 feet.

The letter from Botelho & Wood said: “We trust the proposed reduction in development density and increased conservation and amenity space are in keeping with the strategies, goals and objectives of the Bermuda Plan 2008”.

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Published March 07, 2022 at 8:37 am (Updated March 07, 2022 at 5:55 pm)

Developers want to build 13 homes on old water catchment near secluded woodland

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