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Developers broken farmland promises – BEST

An environmental group has accused the developer of the old Pink Beach Club of reneging on its promises to protect farmland.

The Bermuda Environment Sustainability Taskforce has taken issue with Sardis Development Ltd's latest plans to build residential units, parking and a communal area on agricultural land.

The move has prompted criticism and concern from BEST.

“In March 2014 we were assured that the plans had been revised to reflect the new owner's intention to protect and reactivate the Agricultural Reserve portion of land in the northwest corner of the site,” a BEST spokeswoman said.

“We now discover, as made public in Wednesday's The Royal Gazette, that the developers have reneged on that assurance.

“Newly submitted plans now seek to build residential units on that farmland, along with parking for cars and bikes and a communal area with swimming pool.

“In addition, the current application is seeking permission to relocate the sewage treatment plant for the whole development on to the farmland as well. The owner's claim that the agricultural plot is ‘below average quality' is a red herring, and not reason enough to justify their proposal.

“The quality of farmland can be upgraded by good husbandry, just as the quality was degraded by poor practices such as treating it as a ‘dumping ground, littered with an abandoned boat and vehicle parts'.”

According to a planning application submitted this month, Sardis is seeking to erect ten residential units on the north-western corner of the Smith's site to “support the viability” of its $51.4 million hotel project announced back in March.

Documents included in the application state that the units would be available for rent in the local housing market and managed by the hotel, with residents having access to the hotel's restaurants and services.

The application suggests that the development would be on tourism-zoned land that has an Agricultural Reserve “overlay”, stating that the land has not been used for farming for more than a decade.

A recent Environmental Impact Assessment of the property carried out for the hotel project stated the land had become a “dumping ground” littered with an abandoned boat and vehicle parts.

In exchange for building on the land, the developers have proposed expanding the Woodlands Reserve and Coastal Reserve areas on the eastern lot.

The BEST spokeswoman added: “It must not be that a series of owners could wilfully neglect farmland and then use the neglected state as rationale for building on it, thus removing it forever from food production.

“The people of Bermuda have put protections on agricultural land in recognition that this is a finite resource that we will likely have to depend on in the future.

“In this particular case, the new owner carved-off 5.5 acres of prime real estate for his personal benefit, leaving too little space on which to build a self-sustaining tourism product.

“Again, while we applaud the revitalising of Pink Beach as a tourism site, we cannot support the loss of the site's farmland.

“This is particularly relevant to our position as the developer was allowed to subdivide off a private estate with the stated understanding that the arable land would be preserved and activated.”

Redevelopment of the Pink Beach Club. (Photo by Akil Simmons)

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Published December 12, 2014 at 8:00 am (Updated December 12, 2014 at 8:44 am)

Developers broken farmland promises – BEST

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