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Property now up for sale

The owners of the vacant strip of land off Spice Hill Road in Warwick waited more than ten months to learn whether their appeal against a Development Applications Board decision would be upheld by Environment Minister Marc Bean.

But just three months after learning that Mr Bean had ruled in their favour — against the recommendations of the Department of Planning, the Development Applications Board and the Independent Inspector — the owners appeared to have had second thoughts about their business plan and instead, put the land up for sale.

An advert in the Bermuda Sun dated March 1, 2013 details the property as “a large track of land for sale”, adding: “Approved in principle by PLANNING for a Senior Citizens Home and/or a Day Nursery.”

The asking price is $1.25 million. The advert was placed after Mr Bean granted ‘in principle’ approval on November 20, 2012 and after BEST had applied for a Judicial Review in January 2013 — but before the Chief Justice quashed the approval on March 7, 2013.

According to BEST Chairman Stuart Hayward, the decision to sell the undeveloped site raises questions over whether the owners ever intended to build on their property — or instead wanted to obtain planning permission as a means of increasing the value of their asset.

And he said the case highlights wider concerns about the autonomous authority Government Ministers can wield when making decisions that can have a marked impact on the value of a piece of property and the financial fortunes of private individuals.

The Royal Gazette understands that landowners can secure far higher prices for land that has been granted Planning approval compared to land where the potential for development is either restricted or uncertain or banned.

One architect told this newspaper that financial gains can be made by a seller if planning approval has already been secured on their property.

Last night Mr Hayward questioned why the owners had submitted such a vague planning application to begin with, and found it curious that, rather than correct that initial bid and resubmit it for reconsideration by the DAB after it had been rejected, they had appealed directly to the Minister to have DAB’s decision overturned.

“It would appear that, in this case, the applicants had no clear idea what they wanted to use the building for as long as they got approval to build,” Mr Hayward said. “But if property can increase in value at the single stroke of a pen by a single Minister, than clearly there needs to be some checks and balances in place.

“On two occasions now, Environment Ministers have made decisions that we can only describe as completely unfounded. And when BEST has challenged those decisions in the courts, Government can offer no rebuttal.”

When contacted by

The Royal Gazette, the real estate agent responsible for the sale of the property declined to comment, other than to point out he was unaware that Planning permission for the property had been revoked.

And the developer’s architect was also uncertain about the future of the project. “We don’t know what the owner’s plans are at the moment — we are awaiting their instructions,” David Benevides said.

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Published April 01, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated April 01, 2013 at 12:53 am)

Property now up for sale

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