The Development Applications Board has confirmed its “complete agreement with the assessment, conclusions and recommendations of the Department that the Minister should not proceed with making a Special Development Order” for the Fairmont Southampton.
The meeting minutes [PDF] said, “The Board expressed the view that the proposal puts Bermuda’s tourism product secondary to being a development focused on real estate and is not in the national interest.
“The Board raised concerns that the proposed development would become an ‘unfinished eyesore’, with comparisons made to Caroline Bay at Morgan’s Point.
“The Board expressed the view that the proposal is clearly not in the spirit of the Bermuda Plan 2018 or what Bermuda aspires to achieve in respect of the character and quality of its tourism product.
“The Board pointed out its strong concerns that, once the Hotel is refurbished and reopened, it would be located within an active construction site for a significant number of years, which further brings into question the value of the proposed development to Bermuda’s tourism product.
“The Board noted that Caroline Bay could have been considered by the applicant as an alternative location for the residential component of the project.
“Technical officers noted that the consideration of alternative locations is a typical requirement of development which is the subject of an Environmental Impact Statement and the priority of development brownfield sites is a key principle of sustainable development.
“The Board queried whether and to what extent the applicant took on-board the feedback of the Department.
“Technical officers advised that some recommendations were taken on-board and the Department worked closely with the applicant and their Environmental Consultants to improve the proposal as far as possible, however the applicant declined to address a number of matters [as detailed in the presentation and Board report] and, most critically, did not significantly reduce the proposed number of units.
“The Board expressed the view that Bermuda does not need the residential development which is being proposed and the details which have been provided do not present a high-quality tourism development.
“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.
“The Board queried details of waste and sewage disposal and the representative of the Bermuda Fire and Rescue Service raised concerns that increased waste to Tynes Bay could have significant increased fire risks.
“Technical officers confirmed that details had yet to be submitted or agreed, the use of large centralised containers for refuse disposal would be preferred, there is an existing on-site Wastewater Treatment Plan which is proposed to be replaced to accommodate the proposed development and the development will need to meet requirements of the Bermuda Building Code 2014 and Clean Air Act 1991 via the relevant approval processes.
“The Board queried whether it is usual for submissions requesting an SDO to contain a significant amount of outstanding details.
“Technical officers advised that the current process for considering SDOs is new and, previously, SDOs have been made with minimal details, little to no public consultation and no proper consideration of environmental impacts. New procedures require a great deal of additional information and assessment and provide greater transparency. Technical officers further noted that, if the Minister decides to make an SDO, this will have the effect of granting in-principle planning permission. Subsequent final development applications will be bound by the SDO, such as the number of units, and will be required to be considered by the Board against any conditions attached to the SDO.
“The Board queried whether any additional financial information has been submitted from the original submission.
“Technical officers advised that the reports prepared by PWC have been updated to reflect the revised proposal and, whilst these reports have not been assessed by an appropriate expert, it is evident that they are based on limited data and, consequently, are heavily reliant on assumptions.
“The Board expressed the view that the proposal is more akin to a feasibility study to assess financial viability than a development proposal which responds to the site and surrounding area.
“The Board unanimously confirmed its wholehearted and complete agreement with the assessment, conclusions and recommendations of the Department that the Minister should not proceed with making a Special Development Order.”
Following the initial recommendation from the Planning Department that the SDO is not approved, the developers said that “given the significant benefits it will have for the tourism industry and, by extension, the island’s greater economy, we remain hopeful that our desire to create a year-round destination resort will be successful when our proposal goes before the Minister.”