BEST welcomes plan for greater scrutiny of SDOs
The Throne Speech has received high praise from the Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Taskforce (BEST) for its commitment to environmental issues.
Along with promising further work on turning Southlands into a national park, the speech said amendments will be put in place to ensure special development orders (SDOs) receive proper scrutiny.
Speaking yesterday, BEST chairman Stuart Hayward said: “This is the first Throne Speech in a decade or so that has made a strong affirmation for Bermuda’s physical environment.”
Reading the Throne Speech on Friday, Governor George Fergusson said: “The Government will build upon an earlier legislative amendment that ensured that Special Development Orders would be subject to Parliamentary scrutiny by implementing a protocol that is clearly articulated, transparent and fair.
“This protocol will guide the request for, consideration of and grant of Special Development Orders, enabling the Minister responsible to be fully informed about all Planning policy, technical and national issues prior to making a decision.”
Regarding Southlands, the Throne Speech said: “The Government will begin a process of public consultation that will culminate in the creation of the Southlands National Park in Warwick.
“This initiative will see an area of parkland, roughly the size of the Botanical Gardens, designed, protected and opened to the public.”
The 37-acre estate on South Shore in Warwick, had been earmarked for a hotel development until environmental groups pushed for the land to be preserved.
Responding to the public outcry, Government organised a land-swap agreement in which Government gave up 80 acres of brownfield land at Morgan’s Point in exchange for the property.
Mr Hayward said the group is eager for the property to be formally named a national park.
“We at BEST had heard that there was movement by the new government toward the fulfillment of the promise to make the entire Southlands property into a multifaceted public park,” Mr Hayward said.
“Thousands of people participated in our campaign to preserve this exquisitely unspoilt open space, and I am certain they join in our appreciation that all their efforts have brought us to this result.
“We are delighted that the government will bring closure to a struggle for over five years to save the 37 acres at Southlands, one of the largest remaining open spaces on the Island.”
He said that the preservation of the site marked an enormous economic value, saying: “Just one single tree provides services over a 50-year lifespan that would cost upwards of $1.5 million at today’s prices, including manufacture of oxygen, air and soil conditioning, habitat, erosion prevention and so on.
“With that knowledge, the preservation of Southlands as public parkland has an enormous economic value that should not go unnoticed.”