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OBA calls for public access to Riddell’s Bay

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The Government should ensure public access is allowed for future generations at the old Riddell's Bay Golf and Country Club, Opposition MPs claimed.

The House of Assembly approved a special development order allowing a project to build 18 homes and establish 64 acres of conservation area at the Warwick site.

But the move prompted criticism from the One Bermuda Alliance over future public access, while Progressive Labour Party backbenchers called for recognition of the site's racist past.

Sylvan Richards, the shadow home affairs minister, told a virtual sitting of the House of Assembly on Friday night: “This is causing me some concern.

“Public access to the land should be enshrined in the SDO — the minister just has a letter of commitment from the developers.

“My fear is that, as time goes on and different people come into play, someone in the future may say, ‘I don't want the public having access to this land'.”

Home affairs minister Walter Roban said that a commitment to providing public access was outside of the scope of the SDO because it was related to a private holding.

He noted that a written commitment from the developer would be tabled in the House and said: “We have assurances from the developer of their commitment to public access.”

Patricia Gordon-Pamplin, the shadow finance minister, said: “The minister indicated there is a letter of commitment from the developers. It is not a contractual obligation?

“What will happen when tomorrow's people step in and make the determination that ‘this is our property, we have the title deeds'?

“Developers have their money so the whole thing fades into oblivion.

“When you seal off those lots who is to say they won't change their minds about who they want walking around in their front yards? I am extremely concerned.”

Cole Simons, the shadow environment minister, said: “I don't doubt the integrity of the owners — they thought that the public access was going to be in the SDO, but it is not.”

Castile Holdings, which owns the 87-acre site, has said the project could generate between $75 and $100 million of incremental economic activity over the next five years.

Ms Gordon-Pamplin lauded the PLP for the potential economic stimulus, but warned not to be overly optimistic.

“The number remains to be seen,” Ms Gordon-Pamplin said.

“We look at the Morgan's Points of this world that have not been able to continue to drive the economy and I shudder a little bit that we should not be overly optimistic.”

PLP backbenchers pointed to the history of black people being excluded from the site.

Kim Swan, a St George's MP and former professional golfer, said black golfers of the segregated and post-segregation era of golf should be honoured.

“Some type of memorial to lay to rest their spirit is necessary,” he said.

Michael Scott said that a reflection of black history, with input from black historians and artists, would help black people to feel connected to Riddell's Bay “at last”.

Rolfe Commissiong said he believed that developers in such projects would be “more than willing to sign on to achieve racial equity goals and objectives”.

He suggested asking them to pledge that 50 per cent of their employees would be black Bermudians or that 45 to 50 per cent of subcontractors would be black Bermudian-owned businesses.

Next phase: an SDO will allow the former golf course at Riddell's Bay to be divided into residential lots and a conservation area (File photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Walter Roban, the Deputy Premier and Minister of Home Affairs (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published July 20, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated July 20, 2020 at 9:03 am)

OBA calls for public access to Riddell’s Bay

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