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BTA wants visitor hub to stay on Front Street for five more years

The Bermuda Tourism Authority's Visitor Services Centre on Front Street (File photograph)

A visitor hub made from shipping containers is expected to be removed at the end of an additional planning permission period – if consent is granted, a letter in support of the application said.

The Bermuda Tourism Authority hopes to extend the existence of the structure on Front Street, which was earlier approved to be in place until February 16, 2023.

Planning permission was given in 2017 for the Visitor Service Centre but was limited to five years from the date a building permit was issued.

A letter from Adwick Planning, on behalf of the BTA, said the hub was “an extremely important resource” at the location.

The letter, addressed to the Director of Planning, noted that the tourism quango wished to extend permission for another five years.

Dated December 23, 2022, it said: “The Bermuda Tourism Authority recognises that the BVSC [Bermuda Visitor Service Centre] is essentially a temporary structure but the impact of Covid has severely hampered its ability to look at alternatives.

“At the same time, it believes that the BVSC in this location has much to contribute to enhancing the visitor experience if its full potential can be attained in a post-Covid environment.

“The authority therefore seeks an extension of the permission for the structure.

“A structural engineer has confirmed that with regular maintenance the structure can be expected to be serviceable for a further five-year period (report attached).

“In the longer term and barring any similar unforeseen events such as Covid, the Bermuda Tourism Authority expects that at the end of the additional period of consent the structure would be removed.”

A spokesman for the Ministry of Home Affairs confirmed last week that the Department of Planning was “unlikely to have decided” on the application before February 16.

He added: “However, no enforcement action is required right now because the application was submitted before the expiry.

“The DoP is now processing this application the same as all others.

“Once the application review is complete the Development Applications Board will make a final determination on whether to grant permission for the structure to remain or not.”

The BTA applied for planning permission to move the Team Artemis guest pavilion – used as part of the event village for the 35th America’s Cup – to its site on Front Street, near the junction with Queen Street, in 2017.

Approval was given by the Development Applications Board in November that year.

In its meeting minutes, the DAB said: “In order to safeguard the amenity of the surrounding area (Front Street and the waterfront), the permission hereby granted shall be for a limited period only, expiring five years from the issuance date of the building permit, when the structure shall be removed and the land shall be restored to its former condition.”

The Royal Gazette reported last October that the BTA sought to extend the existence of the VSC in Hamilton.

Jakai Franks, the BTA’s vice president of operations, said last week: “The Bermuda Tourism Authority is aware that the Visitor Service Centre’s provisional planning permit has an expiration date of February 16, 2023.

“As such a structural assessment has taken place and an extension requested.

“The VSC’s Front Street location will continue to operate as normal until the organisation is advised otherwise.”

Documents uploaded to the Department of Planning’s self service website showed an “existing conditions” inspection was carried out on October 25 last year.

The engineer’s report said: “With routine maintenance procedures regularly attended to there is no reason to suppose that this building will become unfit for purpose over the next five years.”

The visitor centre is on land rented from the City of Hamilton, which earlier granted a five-year lease in line with the planning permission in place.

Asked in October if requests were made to extend the arrangement, or whether the corporation expected the building to be removed this month, a spokeswoman said then that the city was in negotiations with the BTA.

A city spokeswoman said last week: “The Corporation of Hamilton is still processing the matter internally and at the end of our process we will communicate our decision to the relevant sources.”

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Published February 06, 2023 at 7:53 am (Updated February 06, 2023 at 7:53 am)

BTA wants visitor hub to stay on Front Street for five more years

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