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Draft of new Hamilton Plan available for consultation

Front Street, Hamilton (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

A draft of the new City of Hamilton Plan, which aims to make the area more attractive, has been posted online for public feedback, it was announced today.

Vance Campbell, the Minister of the Cabinet Office, said the draft plan focused on the concept of “placemaking” to make the capital more attractive by creating areas that were distinctive, welcoming, safe, accessible and connected.

“Increasing vacancy rates and a general decline in the environmental quality of urban centres has been taking place around the world over the last 20 to 25 years, largely because of the seismic shift towards online retailing,” Mr Campbell told the House of Assembly.

“Different jurisdictions have been attempting to address this decline to save towns and cities and one of the emerging successful global solutions is to focus on the quality of place, as the draft plan does.

“If you can create quality and appealing places, people will ultimately spend more time and money in such places. Furthermore, there is also recognition that there is a need for a more diverse range of uses within urban areas.”

Mr Campbell noted that the Government previously had released a consultative draft plan as part of a three-stage consultation process.

“The premise behind the Consultative Draft Plan was to have an earlier phase of the plan-making process, which would enable the department to ‘front-load’ consultation efforts,” he said.

“By providing people with an earlier opportunity to comment on the plan, the emerging issues could be identified and the draft plan could then be a more solidified representation of policy direction.

“The effectiveness of this consultation strategy will be determined by the level and nature of the responses that are received as part of the forthcoming consultation phase.”

The minister added that the Department of Planning had hosted targeted stakeholder presentations to agents, architects, the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation, the Chamber of Commerce, the Corporation of Hamilton and the real estate sector.

It also took part in broader public outreach, including a live radio interview, pop-up sessions around Hamilton and social media.

Mr Campbell added that the plan also proposed a more discretion-based approach to decision-making to increase flexibility in the planning process.

“In essence, what it means is that decisions are taken through applying land use plans in their entirety, enabling balanced and informed decisions, led by a set of clearly defined overarching principles,” he said.

“This approach removes the need for rigid numerical standards, which have proven to be increasingly problematic within the city in recent years in terms of developer viability.

“Instead, under a discretion-based approach, the focus will be on ensuring consistency with clearly articulated principles and the substantive issues which really matter, rather than predefined numerical parameters, which offer minimal discretion.”

Charging station rules to be loosened

Planning polices regarding EV charging stations will be modified to increase flexibility, the House of Assembly heard.

Vance Campbell, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, noted that media had highlighted “challenges” in the application of the policy regarding charging stations because the Development Applications Board did not have discretion to waive them.

“This Government is focused on ensuring that all local businesses, inclusive of small and medium sized enterprises, are successful and when the laws of this land stifle or frustrate entrepreneurship, unnecessarily, we will change the laws so that they do not stifle and frustrate,” Mr Campbell said.

“Under the Development and Planning Act 1974 there is a requirement to review a development plan every five years. In addition, there is a specific provision within the Act which would enable changes outside of the conventional plan-preparation cycle.

“I intend to use this provision to bring an amendment to this House that adds greater discretion in EV charging stations.

“In so doing, I will be sure to follow the process as outlined in the Act. This process of changing planning policy is not a quick fix and any areas of policy which may merit change must be fully researched, considered and consulted upon to ensure a fully transparent and participatory process.”

The comments came after David Furbert, the owner of Mr Chicken, complained that he was not allowed to move forward with a planned move of one of the restaurant’s branches because of the charging-station requirement.

Mr Furbert later said that he planned to reduce his parking area to fewer than ten spaces to avoid the requirement.

In addition to the Draft City of Hamilton Plan, Mr Campbell noted that the City Survey Report 2024 was also available for public reading at www.planning.gov.bm.

“The City of Hamilton is the heartbeat of our island and the social and economic success of the city has a significant impact upon the overall success of the wider island,” Mr Campbell said.

“With this in mind, it is imperative that we have a progressive land-use plan for the city, which is equipped with the necessary tools to enable the city to flourish and to provide a framework for pragmatic and responsible responses to changing circumstances.”

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Published February 23, 2024 at 12:30 pm (Updated February 25, 2024 at 12:54 pm)

Draft of new Hamilton Plan available for consultation

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