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Vance Campbell: I would have approved Fairmont SDO

Vance Campbell, the Minister of the Cabinet Office, under which the Department of Planning now falls, provided details of his ministry’s Throne Speech initiatives (Photograph by Sarah Lagan)

The minister now responsible for the Department of Planning has said he would have given approval to the Fairmont Southampton special development order had he been in the same position at the time.

Vance Campbell, the Minister of the Cabinet Office, assumed responsibility for the department after a redraw of several ministerial responsibilities this week.

Walter Roban, the Minister of Home Affairs, when responsible for planning, went against the recommendations of the planning department and the Development Applications Board in approving the controversial SDO.

Asked whether he would have done the same, Mr Campbell said: “I would have taken the advice of the technical people in conjunction with other material that would have been provided and I would have used that information to come to a conclusion.”

Pushed on whether, based on the information that is available now, he would have done so, he responded: “Absolutely”.

Mr Roban said last month that the decision was in “the national interest and the best interests of the majority of Bermuda residents”.

Speaking on when the SDO would be gazetted, Mr Campbell said: “Once it is completed and finalised, it will be gazetted.“

He was speaking during a press conference outlining his ministry’s Throne Speech initiatives.

In its meeting minutes from September, when the DAB considered the SDO, the board “raised concerns over procedures for making SDOs and the planning appeals process, noting that both allow development to be approved which are in conflict with the Bermuda Plan 2018, and against recommendations and decisions of technical officers and the board.”

Asked whether he believed the processes were fit for purpose, Mr Campbell responded: “We will look at the relevant laws to see if there are ways to make them more efficient. I would say it serves its purpose. Whether or not it can be improved … probably.”

Mr Campbell said the planning department is to modernise its processes to ensure efficiencies.

He said: “The department has entered a partnership with the Green Overseas organisation under the auspices of the European Union to update and modernise the building codes.

“This programme aims to accelerate the energy transition, and increase the climate resilience of overseas countries and territories.

“One of the benefits will be to introduce an energy rating system for buildings, which will maximise the savings that persons, whether owners or tenants, can earn from the implementation of energy-efficient methods.

“The general development order, which identifies forms of developments that do not require full planning permission, is to be revised to expand the scope of work that would only require a building permit …

“The department will also be working with the Attorney-General’s Chambers to prepare the necessary regulations to implement the Competent Persons Scheme — a scheme to enable professionals from a range of disciplines within the construction industry to perform various works, negating the need for the standard inspection process.”

Turning to the Department of Information and Digital Technology, Mr Campbell stated that the Government is committed to building a more resilient IT platform in the wake of the September 20 cyberattack.

“We are creating a more robust information technology security infrastructure to maximise threat detection, minimise risk and improve overall service efficiencies.

“Stricter training plans and policies will be implemented to ensure that government personnel enhance their awareness of threats. I can confirm that several new tools, processes and services have already been introduced, and these have greatly increased our overall security position.”

He said “much” of the Government’s IT systems are operational, but would not elaborate on which were not.

He also declined to say whether the island was hit by ransomware or whether the Government paid a ransom.

“There is an ongoing investigation. We have committed to a joint select committee and that will give the opportunity for all questions to be answered.”

Asked whether that would include whether the Government paid a ransom, he said “all questions”.

Speaking during questions on the My Bermuda Post Supreme Court ruling that the Government acted unlawfully by entering into a partnership with a US-based company, Mr Campbell said: “We are currently awaiting advice from our attorney on that.”

He was also asked whether he was disappointed to have the tourism portfolio removed from his ministry, to which he responded: “We serve at the Premier’s grace. I was happy to serve our people in that capacity.

“The Premier sees fit for me to serve in a different capacity. I still have Cabinet responsibilities, and I am happy to continue my service on behalf of our people.”

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Published November 18, 2023 at 7:57 am (Updated November 18, 2023 at 8:29 am)

Vance Campbell: I would have approved Fairmont SDO

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