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Efforts made to speed up planning process

Changes made: Michael Fahy(Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

The Bermuda Government has worked hard to improve the planning process and consult with other groups, according to Michael Fahy, the Minister of Home Affairs.

Speaking to The Royal Gazette, Sen Fahy said that the Government has made several small changes in order to expedite the planning process.

“We have done a number of smaller things in the department that have made a difference,” he said. “For example, not accepting incomplete applications. That has cut the amount of time [to process] and increased the turnaround for applications.

“I’m very pleased we have passed the general development order which allows the director to make determinations on smaller projects without having to go on to the full board approval, which will encourage smaller projects without a full board. That will speed things up.

“Generally I think this department does incredibly well. Obviously this department, like many others, has been subject to a hiring freeze, we have had a reduction in the number of staff from 43 or 44 to 34 now and their turnaround times have in fact gotten better.

“One of the initiatives that we will be looking into, and it was mentioned in last year’s Throne Speech and will appear in the legislative agenda this year, is the opportunity for the director to levy civil penalties against not just the homeowner but also the developer as well. I think that will be an important development as well in terms of enforcement for illegal development.”

The minister also said that the Department has been working with the Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Taskforce (BEST). While the environmental organisation has objected to some of the department’s decisions, Sen Fahy said there is a “very good working relationship” between the two.

“In fairness, every developer that I’m aware of has had meetings with BEST and lays out their programme so it’s out there for BEST to comment on, and that’s a good relationship to have because BEST obviously has their view on things,” he added.

“Most of the time you can find a happy medium.”

Sen Fahy also defended the One Bermuda Alliance’s record of consultation — something which has been harshly attacked by critics.

“I think where the Opposition gets it wrong, the Opposition take the view that if you don’t listen to us as the Opposition then you haven’t consulted,” he said.

“I rubbish that entirely. I think this government has been shown to be far more open and transparent on the things that we do. We have passed Pati despite it sitting on the books with the Opposition which was then in government for ten years.

“I think we do a good job of consulting those who require to be consulted. Just because you don’t take everything on board doesn’t mean you don’t listen.”

Sen Fahy also criticised the overall quality of political debate, saying: “I think that we can do much better. I believe that we have seen a lot of unnecessary mudslinging, especially in my view from the Opposition, and the Opposition will say it’s us. But we can do better. I think the level of debate is not what it could be.

“We need to be focusing in on the issues that affect everyday Bermudians, and we seem to get caught up in personality conflicts here and for a small community, that doesn’t work. We all live in a very small island and we need to get along.

“I think that as leaders and as politicians it’s much better to talk about the issues of the day rather than personalities. I think if we can move away from that, we will find that permeates through any number of other levels of society.

“I believe that if we can raise the game and talk about the issues it would be better for Bermuda.”