Huge public outcry needed to halt ‘desecration’ of island’s green spaces, says BNT
The “desecration” of Bermuda’s environment will continue unless there is a huge public outcry to stop development of green spaces, according to the Bermuda National Trust.
The comments came after work started to clear a site on Harrington Sound Road for a four-bedroom house on an area that used to be protected as coastal reserve.
The site, overlooking Harrington Sound near Shark Hole in Hamilton Parish, was re-zoned as residential through the Tucker’s Point special development order more than ten years ago.
Karen Border, executive director of the Bermuda National Trust, said: “The development of a four-bedroom house and pool on the very narrow strip of land between the road and Harrington Sound at Shark Hole is a prime example of the environmental damage that can arise from SDOs.
“Prior to the granting of the 2011 Tucker’s Point SDO, this land was zoned as coastal reserve with additional protection as a cave protection area and water resources protection area.
“The SDO removed those protections and 11 years later we see the result.”
Ms Border said that the BNT and others objected to the project, but the development was approved by the Department of Planning.
“Until there is a loud enough outcry from the Bermuda public as a whole that will sway decision-makers to rule against such developments, we are likely to keep on seeing the desecration of Bermuda’s remaining open spaces,” she said.
Ms Border said the BNT and other local environmental organisations are now keeping a close eye on the potential SDO for the Fairmont Southampton site.
A 2009 SDO for the Fairmont Southampton gave planning permission in principle for 130 fractional tourism and residential units. However, the developer, Gencom, has said it intended to propose amendments to that SDO to support investment in the hotel.
A spokeswoman for the Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Taskforce said the charity had fought against the Tucker’s Point SDO, which it described as a bailout rather than an effort to revive a tourism facility.
“It was a real estate deal for the exclusive benefit of its investors at Bermuda's expense. I suppose one could say it was another type of land grab,” the spokeswoman said.
“The 2011 Tucker’s Point SDO gave them permission to build private residences on valuable and protected open (green) space — development that has or will be sold off mostly if not entirely to non-Bermudians.”
She added that the charity was very concerned about plans for the Fairmont Southampton and what it could mean for undeveloped land at the site.
“I think they call it branded residential properties. Again, not a tourism project as much as another real estate sales arrangement,” the spokeswoman said.
“Since Gencom is the common factor in both the Tucker's Point and Fairmont Southampton deals, before any consideration of an SDO is given, we would expect our parliamentarians, and fellow Bermudians, to demand economic information about the Tucker's Point 'model' to help to prove the actual value of these types of developments to Bermuda.”
She added: “If a new or amended SDO is requested that proposes expanded residential development at the Fairmont Southampton, it is likely that BEST will ask for the community to oppose that.
“However, there is no need to wait. Call, e-mail or write to your Member of Parliament to formally register your own concerns.”
Plans to develop the Shark Hole property were submitted by Bernard Hancovich and Gillian Pinchin and approved last year by the Development Applications Board.
Planning documents show that objections to the plan were received from BEST, the Bermuda Audubon Society, the Bermuda National Trust and others.
The applicant responded to the objections stating the plans fell within the limits of the SDO and noted that the home would take up 15.7 per cent of the lot while hard surfaces would cover 25.3 per cent.
The response letter said: “While consideration to the Bermuda ecosystem is a priority, it is the goal to utilise the site in the most efficient and effective way possible while still following the requirements stated in the Tucker’s Point Resort Residential Development (Hamilton and St George’s Parishes) Special Development Order (SDO) 2011.”
A planning officer wrote in a report that the lot had been approved for residential development by the SDO and the mandated studies had been carried out, including a geophysical report, which did not identify any caves on the property.
The report said that the development was proposed for the western side of the lot, which would allow it to avoid the majority of environmental features on the eastern side of the property.
The report said: “The concerns raised by the objectors are legitimate — in its current natural state, notwithstanding the invasive species and the detrimental impact wild seeded species such as casuarinas have on the landform, it does provide habitat.
“It is also fully acknowledged that while no caves were found during the geophysical investigation, the potential does exist they may be found during construction.
“A conservation management plan will never return the lot to its current state. However, it will introduce additional natives and endemics, while enhancing those that currently exist.
“Conditions have been added to deal with the discovery of a cave which may necessitate a redesign.”
The report author disagreed with objectors’ complaints about the size of the proposed building and said that the design was in keeping with other residences in the area.
Gencom was contacted for comment.