House passes amendment to put all SDOs before Parliament
Special Development Orders will be subject to Parliamentary scrutiny in future, after an amendment was made to the Development and Planning Act last night.
Environment Minister Walter Roban admitted SDOs should have been subjected to such scrutiny ever since 2006. Orders including those for the controversial Southlands development, Coco Reef resort and Dockyard cruise ship pier were not debated by Parliament as a result of the oversight.
However, the amendment passed last night is retroactive, meaning that those SDOs not debated are nonetheless deemed to have been made validly
SDOs allow developers to expedite the construction process and bypass some of the planning regulations, such as periods of public input.
They are designed to respond to development needs that are of strategic national importance or priority. The Environment Minister is only allowed to grant one if national importance can be proved.
According to Environment Minister Walter Roban, SDOs have been dealt with as Statutory Instruments since 2006. That means they should have been subjected to Parliamentary scrutiny through what is known as the affirmative resolution procedure.
The affirmative resolution procedure means MPs and Senators debate all the permissions and conditions attached to a SDO.
In 2006, they were classified as Government notices rather than statutory instruments, which meant they were no longer subject to such scrutiny. According to Mr Roban, the amendment made last night will bring SDOs back in line with the practice before 2006.
Earlier this month, he said: “One critical feature of a statutory instrument is that it has a legislative effect. Clarifying the Development Planning Act to provide for SDOs to be considered statutory instruments and for them to be subject to parliamentary oversight via an affirmative resolution procedure is, in my opinion, serving the public interest.”
Last night, he recommended the amendment to the House of Assembly, saying it would “ensure transparency of the decision-making procedure” and validate the SDOS that have been approved before.
The amendment was supported by the Opposition, with Shadow Minister of the Environment Cole Simons saying it would help ensure SDOs meet social needs and comply with existing laws.
However, Shadow Attorney General Trevor Moniz said that as a lawyer, he is concerned that the retroactive aspect of the legislation means Government has given “carte blanche approval” to the prior SDOs without even listing what they are in the amendment act.
Mr Roban subsequently produced a list of all SDOs made since 1990.