Minister slams developers at Tucker’s Point for ‘blatant disregard to nature reserve’
Developers at Tucker’s Point have been warned that further planning breaches will be dealt with “severely” after a swath of nature reserve was cleared to create an ocean view.
According to planning documents, RWTP Golf Ltd sought approval for a conservation management plan for the Hamilton Parish lot in the wake of the improper clearing, but the Development Applications Board rejected the proposal on the basis it would set a bad precedent.
RWTP appealed and Walter Roban, the Minister of Home Affairs, allowed the plan on appeal, but in a decision letter he said the developer should have been aware of the planning process and the sensitivity of nature reserves.
“The appellant's blatant behaviour, in my opinion, must be addressed,” he said.
“I am therefore hereby placing the appellant on notice that any further retroactive works that come before the Minister or the Department of Planning on the site in question, or any other site owned by the appellant, shall be dealt with severely.
“As Minister, I will without hesitation direct the Department of Planning to exercise enforcement proceedings which includes, but is not limited to, having all retroactive works removed or reinstated and significant civil penalties imposed.”
According to planning documents, RWTP Golf Ltd cleared a section of Lot 9 on Tucker’s Point Drive, including a section of land zoned as nature reserve.
Planning officials found last August that 95 per cent of the previously existing endemic and native forest cover had been reduced to less than two feet in height, with some previously identified palmettos excavated and removed.
The applicant accepted responsibility for stripping the area, stating that they had instructed a landscaping company to create a “viewing corridor” through the reserve to give the site an ocean view.
The applicant proposed a conservation management plan with the planting of endemics in other parts of the property along with a neighbouring lot.
However, the Department of Planning raised concerns about the proposal, highlighting that the plan included a lawn entirely located on the cleared nature reserve space.
A letter written by Paul McDonald on behalf of the director of planning said the proposal would effectively “reward” the applicant for the planning breach by allowing a lawn in the nature reserve.
Mr McDonald said: “Despite being afforded numerous opportunities, the appellant has still, to date, been unable to provide any reasonable justification as to why the proposed lawn could not be relocated either partially or fully outside of the nature reserve zoned part of the site.”
He added that the Department hoped the minister would uphold the decision of the DAB and – if the minister chose to do otherwise – urged a condition requiring the appellant to designate another area of no less than 1,000 sq ft a nature reserve.
Mr Roban said in a decision letter dated September 26 that he would approve the CMP despite his misgivings.
“Notwithstanding, the appellant's blatant disregard to the nature reserve and its ecological significance, I cannot ignore the environmental benefits and gains that the proposed CMP provides, which is supported by the Terrestrial Conservation Officer,” he said.
“Whilst the removed vegetation within the small area of nature reserve will take several years to replace, the CMP will not only replace the vegetation removed but will replant native and endemic species over a much larger area than is presently the case including areas zoned park that are presently open golf course.
“The Terrestrial Conservation Officer has essentially confirmed that the nature reserve area where vegetation was removed had a lesser significance than the larger Government-owned nature reserve area to be improved under the CMP.
“Because of the overwhelming long-term benefits of the CMP and equally important, the appellant's willingness to cover the cost of the restoration works; a major cost saving to the Bermuda Government in management and equipment cost, I am prepared to support the plan.
“The plan will ultimately go a long way to improve this conservation area and address some of the issues that have plighted the area from being properly managed over the years.”
Mr Roban attached several conditions, including that an area of at least 1,000 sq ft be designated a nature reserve and that the CMP must be “significantly implemented” before a Certificate of Completion and Occupancy is granted.
A planning application to develop the portion of the property zoned for residential use was submitted last month, proposing a house with a garage and a guest wing and swimming pool.