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DAB rejects controversial Southlands plan

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Southlands (File photograph)

The Development Applications Board has rejected a proposal to build an events lawn and parking area at Southlands.

While the Bermuda Housing Corporation has said the project was essential to the success of the neighbouring Bermudiana Beach Resort, the proposal had been recommended for refusal owing to “deficiencies” in the plan.

According to recently published draft minutes of the Wednesday meeting, the DAB formally refused the proposal planning approval on several grounds, including that “insufficient and erroneous information” had been submitted, which did not allow the board to make a fully informed assessment of the proposal.

The DAB also stated that it did not have discretion to approve development within a Woodland Reserve Conservation Area and that the proposal was in conflict with the Bermuda Plan 2018, as the events lawn and associated development were not “essential” to the maintenance, conservation, enhancement or enjoyment of the park.

The board also cited the impact of the proposal on the natural and visual quality of the conservation area, and the failure of the proposed vehicle access to meet minimum policy requirements.

Despite the rejection of the plan, a decision letter noted the developer can file an appeal to the Minister of Home Affairs within 21 days.

The application, submitted last year 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.

The Bermuda National Trust welcomed the decision to refuse the application, stating that the project would seriously impact a valuable conservation area.

Myles Darrell, the trust’s Head of Natural Heritage, said: “We are pleased by this decision because there is absolutely no need to bulldoze an area of mature endemic and native woodland along this stretch of South Road when there is a brownfield site only a short way farther west where the events lawn and parking could be sited.

“If this were allowed, we would be giving up an ecologically important part of a National Park to primarily benefit a private resort, and for no good reason as there is a viable alternative location for the development.”

The Bermuda Audubon Society also applauded the DAB’s decision, describing the site as “an exceptional and delicate area of Woodland Reserve”.

“This area of almost 0.75 acres is one of Bermuda’s best examples of successful woodland restoration,” a spokeswoman said. “It is home to a large variety of healthy native and endemic trees and plants including Bermuda cedar, Bermuda olivewood, Bermuda palmetto, Bermuda snowberry, inkberry and even yellowwood.

“The yellowwood is an example of a locally critically endangered species, which only exists in a few locations in Bermuda.

“This coastal forest provides a diverse ecosystem with habitat for nesting birds, flowering plants for bees, butterflies and other pollinators, sandy soil for land crab burrows and a whole world of micro-organisms under the soil.”

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Published April 10, 2023 at 12:37 pm (Updated April 10, 2023 at 1:34 pm)

DAB rejects controversial Southlands plan

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