MPs pass North East Hamilton Plan
Planners will have greater flexibility when considering development applications in the north east of Hamilton under legislation passed in the House of Assembly today.
The North East Hamilton Local Plan will realise the area’s “sustainable economic potential” while respecting the established environment, sense of community and cultural importance of the neighbourhood, according to Walter Roban, the Minister for Home Affairs.
Mr Roban added: “In order to realise this vision, the plan sets a flexible policy framework, which affords greater decision-making discretion to the Development Applications Board.
“This framework does not set any absolute parameters in terms of acceptable uses, designs or building heights in order to allow each development proposal to be considered on its individual merits.
“It does, however, contain all of the conventional planning considerations, ensuring that appropriate decisions can be taken within a robust policy framework.
Mr Roban said that a draft version of the plan was drawn up in July 2021 “after extensive consultation with internal and external stakeholders”.
He said: “The North East quadrant of Hamilton is an area with a strong sense of community and culture.
“However, it is also an area that has experienced incremental social, economic and environmental decline to the extent that the character of this area differs significantly from the remainder of the city.
“The area is in need of investment to instigate economic activity for the benefit of existing residents and business owners.” he said. “These are the underpinning reasons why the area has a distinct urban fabric worthy of its own local plan.
“In preparing a local plan for the area, the department has considered a number of different options. The driving force behind the plan has been to establish a framework which facilitates investment in a manner which is intimately cognisant of established characteristics of the area from a cultural perspective.”
One Bermuda Alliance shadow home affairs minister Jarion Richardson said that he was hopeful that the plan would rejuvenate the area.
But he also expressed concern that the case-by-case nature of the plan would give developers carte blanche to bring the bulldozers in.
Mr Richardson said: “This is the first suburban area in the City of Hamilton and it does have some quite unique historical and cultural aspects to it. We have to be very, very careful when we move into the North East Hamilton area when we talk about development.
“Because one thing we don’t want to do is overdevelop. Most especially we don’t want to overdevelop in a way that results in a negative impact on the community within the area.
“We have to balance moving forward with progressive developments that engage the community, that bring economic revitalisation to the community but at the same time doesn’t have a negative impact.
“We are seeing a time of tremendous economic difficulty and everything needs to be pointing towards the direction of our recovery and our sustainable development.
“To that end, this plan has been under way for some time and it’s important that government connects the developments that are proposed under this plan. How does the plan contribute to the economic recovery?”
Mr Richardson added that flexibility also created uncertainty – something that could deter developers from moving into the area.
He said: “All of a sudden something that should be attracting applicants and developments is actually pushing them away because of the uncertainty.
“We have to make sure that when this plan goes to the House that we give certainty to people that the case by case assessment isn’t an arbitrary exercise but a deliberate exercise and a thought out exercise.”