Another piece of paradise allowed to be paved
The Bermuda Audubon Society is very disappointed to learn that the Minister of Home Affairs, Walter Roban, has once again decided to overturn a decision of the Development Applications Board, this time to allow a private individual, Nelson Cordeiro, to build a large house and pool on lands zoned Woodland Reserve on Judkin Lane, near Mangrove Lake.
This decision goes directly against the recommendations of his own planning department and the recommendations of the independent planning inspector brought in to review the appeal.
When the minister granted Mr Cordeiro permission to quarry the site for slate a year ago — again against the recommendation of a (different) independent planning inspector — he cited “national interest” as the reason for his decision. National interest cannot justify his approval for a large private house, with pool and other structures, described by the inspector as a case of “extreme overdevelopment which is not sensitive to the importance placed on this conservation area”. The approved development serves only the developer's interest; everyone else loses.
This once-forested hillside lot sits amid one of the largest areas of natural open space in Bermuda. What was a supposedly a protected area of Woodland Reserve was allowed to be completely deforested, then turned into an open scar through quarrying, and now will be almost wholly covered in man-made structures.
Why does this matter? Large swaths of continuous open space are critical for the health and sustainability of our natural flora and fauna. Trees absorb carbon and help to mitigate climate change. Woodlands also form wind breaks, protect agricultural fields and help to cool our island. They form a significant part of the natural beauty of Bermuda, providing enjoyment for both Bermudians and those who come to visit our special island. Conservation zonings were put in place to protect just such areas. To ignore these zonings and override the expert advice of both local and independent planners makes a travesty of Bermuda’s entire planning framework.
The existing Bermuda Plan gives the Development Applications Board discretion to allow a single detached house in a conservation zone such as Woodland Reserve, so that the property owner would not suffer significant economic loss owing to the conservation zoning. However, the plan requires that such a development be kept to a practical minimum and that the siting, scale and massing would be sensitive to the Conservation Area status of the lot and surrounding area. The present approval has no regard for these limitations, as noted by the independent inspector. Indeed, since Mr Cordeiro has already benefited economically from the lot through quarrying, he could have been reasonably denied permission to build on it at all, and been required to remediate it to a natural state.
In the future, we hope that government ministers will see that it is in Bermuda’s national interest to adhere to the conservation objectives of our planning legislation. We cannot afford to continue to lose more of our conservation lands. Allowing a few individuals to profit economically at the expense of our natural environment is an offence to the majority of Bermudians who must abide by planning legislation, and a betrayal of future generations.
We urge the public to speak up, talk with their MPs and join us in the fight to protect what is left of our natural heritage.
Bermuda Audubon Society