Burch explains Rocky Hill dock decision
The builders of an illegal dock in St George's that was demolished this week showed “blatant disregard for the law”, the public works minister said last week.
Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch told the House of Assembly his ministry wanted to work with the public, but there was “a huge difference” between a makeshift wooden dock and a structure made of concrete.
Colonel Burch said: “I think it is safe to say, that we are serious about addressing all the outstanding foreshore matters and our actions this week, at Rocky Hill Park, should leave no one in doubt about our determination to respond decisively to those who willingly flout the law.”
The minister said officials from the Estates Department discovered the dock was under construction on the government-owned shore and seabed at Rocky Hill Park on June 23.
Colonel Burch said: “While on site the estates officer requested confirmation that the Department of Planning approvals were secured.
“One of the construction workers became quite belligerent and verbally abused the public officer, so much so that officers from the Bermuda Police Service had to be called upon to lend support.
“This unacceptable behaviour was caught on video and eventually went viral — the workers were advised to cease any further development. To my astonishment, I was informed the very next day that the construction crew actually poured concrete in the form work.”
Colonel Burch added he consulted the Attorney-General's Chambers and the developer was served a “correspondence before action” warning on June 25 that they had 14 days to remove the dock or the Government would do it and sue for damages and costs.
Colonel Burch said he visited the site with other MPs and there were “many” makeshift slips in the area.
He said: “Some of them had also received the trespass notices advising of 14 days to remove their structures.
“I indicated to them that I would consider all the issues and render a decision, before the expiry of 14 days and instructed them to take no action until a final decision was made.
“I subsequently met with technical officers in the ministry to ascertain the magnitude of the problem and how it had been ignored for so long.”
He added: “Not wishing to penalise everyone with a blanket approach, I am mindful that many of these slips are makeshift and actually bring character to the area and have existed in some cases for 40 years.
“However, there is a huge difference between a makeshift wooden structure that can be destroyed by the slightest of storms and a concrete one that is permanent by its very nature.”
Colonel Burch said he had asked for licence agreements be prepared for many of the people with slips near Rocky Hill Park so they could be regularised, but that the concrete dock had to go.
He added: “I had an opportunity to speak with the developer who conceded he did not have the requisite approvals and agreed that, although his intention was to build a ‘public dock' for all to use, it had to come down.”
Workers involved in the dock's construction told The Royal Gazette the project was intended to replace an older dock that had fallen into a state of disrepair and had become a safety hazard.
The dock was demolished on Tuesday by Island Construction at a cost of $2,200 after the company tendered the lowest bid.
Colonel Burch told the House that there were about 552 docks that are either illegal or up for renewal.
He said: “Although this seems like a large number, the Ministry will be taking the necessary action to address any illegal structures similar to that taken at Rocky Hill Park.
“There are several that have been approved and are legal structures, but the owners have ignored all requests thus far to sign a lease and pay the fee.”
Colonel Burch added: “Not all foreshore developments are illegal as many members of the public have already entered into formal agreements with the Government and legally occupy the foreshore.
“However, the ministry is aware that there are a number of unapproved or unlicensed foreshore encroachments.
“This cannot be tolerated and we encourage anyone without a formal agreement to occupy the foreshore to contact the Estates Department within the ministry immediately in order to take corrective steps to deal with any unauthorised occupation before the ministry takes the necessary action to reclaim its land.”
• To read Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch's statement in full, click on the PDF under “Related Media”