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Planners say Southlands parking lot should be refused

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Plans to turn a portion of Southlands into a parking area and events lawn have been recommended for refusal over “deficiencies” in the submission.

The plan, submitted last year, was intended to support the neighbouring Bermudiana Beach Resort as well as improve public access to Southlands.

While the plans were set to go before the Development Applications Board yesterday, a report from a planning officer said that the applicant had not responded to a number of concerns about the proposal by the end of March.

The report added that the board had no discretion to approve such a development within a Woodland Reserve Conservation Area.

“In addition, the proposed events lawn and associated development is not essential to the maintenance, conservation, enhancement or enjoyment of the park, the use of chain-link fencing is not considered to be appropriate, it is not been demonstrated that vehicles can safely exit the site, and there would be a net loss in the conservation and aesthetic value of the site and wider area,” the report continued.

The report said that consultation with the National Parks Commission — which was disbanded recently — was not possible, but the Department of Parks had been consulted “in lieu”.

The report added that the lack of feedback from the commission was not considered “critical” to the assessment of the application.

The Department of Parks supported the plan in a February 16 letter, saying that it was “encouraged” by the intent to rejuvenate and protect a former gun battery at the site.

“We also appreciate that the parking lot drawings showcase a number of plantings,” the letter continued.

“We hope that we can work with the resort in order to establish trails between the two parking lots proposed for this area with plantings of endemic and native species.”

The application, submitted by the Bermuda Housing Corporation, proposed the creation of an events lawn on the southeastern portion of the park, which abuts the Bermudiana Beach Resort.

Planning documents described the lawn as “an integral component of hotel use”, while the parking area would be accessible for the public to improve access to the park and beach.

The proposal was nearly identical to a similar application for the site, which was rejected by the DAB in 2019. At that time, the National Parks Commission raised concerns about the application’s “excessive” size.

Both applications were fiercely opposed by environmental groups who argued that the proposal would compromise valuable parkland.

A DAB report created in advance of yesterday’s meeting recommended that the application be refused, saying that the applicant had been informed of concerns and “inaccuracies” in the proposal.

The report noted that while a number of concerns were raised by objectors, including claims that the application included “significant inaccuracies” about the composition of the woodlands, no response had been received to address the claims.

“Such an assessment should have been carried out prior to the submission of a planning application and informed the proposed design,” the report said.

“Indeed, as per the advice of Terrestrial Conservation Services, with the exception of individual large trees, the current application site contains the highest density of quality endemic and native vegetation within the entirety of the Southlands Estate property.”

The report added that while a conservation management plan was submitted, it did not appear to show on-site conditions accurately.

“Based on the details provided, it is apparent that the proposal would result in a notable conservation loss and would be detrimental to the visual amenity of the area by replacing a high-quality woodland with a parking lot and events lawn containing sparse planting,” the report added.

“While the submitted CMP indicates that trees would be replanted, it states that such trees only ‘may’ be re-used.

“The transplantation of some species may be supported, in principle, particularly to the coastal areas at Southlands. However, bay grape does not transplant easily and potential for successful and vibrant relocation is often low.”

The report said that the proposed parking area would provide a “safe and convenient arrangement” for those who visit the park, but under the proposal it would come at the cost of high-quality woodland.

Southlands (File photograph)

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Published April 06, 2023 at 7:52 am (Updated April 06, 2023 at 7:52 am)

Planners say Southlands parking lot should be refused

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