The Department of Planning will host a series of free clinics on a quarterly basis, to help make the procedure less intimidating and to help people understand the planning process.
The announcement was made at a news conference held this morning (Monday, August 12) by Walter Roban, Deputy Premier and Minister of Home Affairs.
The initiative will mean members of the public can get advice outside of normal office hours and it is hoped the scheme will help to streamline processes in the Department of Planning.
“The purpose of the planning clinics is to provide members of the public with an opportunity to obtain advice around planning matters which are important to them, any guidance that planning can give them outside of the normal operating hours.
“Our main goal here is to improve planning literacy among the Bermuda public,” said Mr Roban.
Ultimately, he said the aim was to increase access to the “knowledgeable” planning team so that property owners can get information or direction on potential development projects.
“Through these clinics the public will be able to get valuable information on new developments, the upgrading of their own properties, the requirements for the upgrading of buildings that are listed, types of applications that a land owner can submit, planning applications in general and building permits, and more.”
The first clinic will be held at Southampton Preschool this Wednesday from 5.30pm until 7.30pm.
A central clinic will be held on August 21 at Horticultural Hall in the Botanical Gardens, with another meeting planned for east end residents to be held at Bethel AME Church in Shelly Bay on August 28 from 5.30pm until 7.30pm.
The Minister noted that Victoria Pereira, the recently-appointed director, and her team were “committed to easing the burden and confusion that many people find with the planning process”.
Responding to concerns that there people who view the planning process as “an obstacle”, Mr Roban said the clinics were part of several initiatives designed to change that perception.
“Our hope is that the planning department will be seen as a valuable resource for the islands, and the upcoming planning clinics will serve to be informative and to allow a much more relaxed approach to the construction and development atmosphere of Bermuda,” he said.
“Sometimes the planning process is seen as being a bit ominous and grand and intimidating to the average person.
“If you’re somebody who’s never done a development before or done a renovation to your property, either recently or at all, the idea of perhaps going to a Government department and having to get permission — and you really want to do something — it seems a little bit intimidating and maybe even frustrating.
“There is a process and even though you may want to do something you think is inconsequential, the planning people know the impacts that all types of developments and changes can make.
“We want to make this process easier for those persons.”
The clinics will also provide an opportunity for members of the public to get advice before they go through paying the expense of hiring an agent to process planning applications for them.
The programme, entitled ‘Energov’ is a paperless application process recently launched by the Department of Planning.
“They need to have a new system in place, which actually represents the future, using digital technology,” said Mr Roban.
For more information, the Minister advised residents to visit the Department of Planning.