Plans for Island Construction HQ expansion approved
Plans to expand facilities at Island Construction headquarters have been given planning approval despite objections over the zoning of the land.
While the property is formally zoned as open space reserve, the Department of Planning noted the land in Devonshire had been used for industrial purposes since the 1950s.
A report written for the Development Applications Board recommended the application for approval despite the zoning.
The report said: “The Department acknowledges that supporting this expansion and intensification of industrial operations on open space reserve is compromising the application site’s conservation zoning, but maintain that it is the most practical and realistic option when compared to other alternatives.”
The application proposed the construction of three two-story warehouse buildings on the Middle Road property, located by the junction with Parson’s Lane, along with a revised parking and transport layout and a conservation management plan for the property.
Two of the new warehouse buildings would be erected on the northern portion of the land, while the third would be on the western side.
The western warehouse would include five one-bedroom apartments on the upper level, which would increase the number of dwellings on the site from three to eight.
The warehouse buildings would otherwise be used to store equipment, trucks, trailers, building materials and shipping containers already on the site.
The proposal received objection from environmental groups who raised concern about the further industrialisation of land zoned as open space reserve and the impact it would have on the neighbouring Devonshire Marsh.
However the planning officer noted that industrial activity has taken place on the property since the 1950s.
“This means that this type of activity has been taking place before the Department of Planning was established,” he said. “Despite this activity, the Department designated the application site with conservation zoning.
“This nonconforming industrial use on conservation zoning, as well as within an area which is bordered by nature reserve, resulted in court proceedings in the early 1990s wherein the judgment established that industrial use on the site was justified and it prevented enforcement action being taken against the existing industrial use.
“It is noteworthy that, while the court judgment prevented enforcement action being taken against the industrial use existing at the time, it did not change the zoning of the property to industrial nor permit further industrial development.”
The report noted that in both 2008 and 2019 applications were made to rezone the open space reserve on the property as industrial and remove the agriculture reserve zoning.
While the Department of Planning did not support the proposals, the tribunal overseeing the Bermuda Plan chose to remove the agriculture reserve zoning while upholding the open space reserve.
“The Minister resolved to uphold the tribunal’s recommendation,” the report noted. “These zoning changes took effect on June 25, 2021.”
The DAB report said that, in all the circumstances, the best option would be to allow industrial use of the site to continue while taking efforts to mitigating the impact.
“One alternative, suggested from one objector, is that the industrial operations should be relocated to a more suitable site,” the report said. “However, this alternative is very unlikely to transpire as the Department’s stance after the court case in 1991 is that industrial operations on the site are legitimate.
“Instead, the Department believes that a better approach is to allow the site to serve as an industrial site while taking mitigation measures to protect the surrounding nature reserves. The Department believes that this proposal has achieved this.
“Another option would be to continue to allow the site to operate as it has done so for years.
“Given these circumstances the Department believes that supporting this proposal will improve the operations of the site, to the benefit of the surrounding area, whilst incorporating an appropriate amount of landscaping and appropriately protecting the adjacent nature reserve.”
Island Construction had previously applied to erect new warehouse buildings on the property in 2011. While those plans were rejected by the DAB, they were approved on appeal by the Minister of Planning.
Work on the project was not begun and the approval subsequently lapsed.