Deputy Premier and Minister of Home Affairs, Walter Roban, announced the creation of the Draft North East Hamilton Local Plan 2021 by the Department of Planning on Monday (July 5).

Speaking at a news conference held at Dr EF Gordon Square, he said: “Many will appreciate that managing land use in North East Hamilton requires a different approach than in other parts of the City, due partly to the disparities in place.”

“Over the last ten years, a significant amount of research was conducted and used to devise a strategy that supports economic investment and accounts for the views of residents and business owners in the area.

“The Draft North East Hamilton Local Plan 2021 represents the culmination of a conscientious effort by the Department of Planning to prepare an informed land-use strategy intended to benefit existing residents and business owners in a sustainable and meaningful way.”

Providing “an overview of the critical elements and how they will work in practice”, the Minister said: “The overall Vision for the Plan is ‘To realize North East Hamilton’s sustainable economic potential in a manner which is cognisant of the established environment, sense of community, and cultural importance of the neighbourhood’.

“Essentially, we want to encourage economic development in the area, but it should not come at any cost. It is also essential that area residents and business owners form part of this process and have their say in shaping the area’s future,” said Mr Roban.

“The Plan contains six objectives that underpin the Vision, which indicate the priorities for the Plan. They have also been used to establish the framework against which the policies have been drafted.”

The Minister was joined by Senator Lindsay Simmons, the Director of the Department of Planning, Ms Victoria Pereira and her team; Mr Larry Williams, Mr Paul Mcdonald and Mr Kenny Campbell. 

For more information, visit the Department of Planning’s website at https://planning.gov.bm.

Highlights of the Minister’s full statement: 

The Plan provides a new approach to the application of planning policy in Bermuda whereby balanced decisions will be made by carefully assessing development proposals against the Plan’s content as a whole. This approach will ensure that submissions are not automatically accepted because they meet all of the numerical requirements of a plan. The proposed method allows for a closer inspection of the more intangible elements of a proposal, such as design considerations. This approach also ensures that there will be no instances where an otherwise proper planning application is refused because it doesn’t meet every term in the policy. We expect this approach to increase the quality of design and remove some of the barriers to achieving a more efficient and logical decision-making process. 

The “Strategic Principles Approach” will place significant weight upon a set of overarching “Strategic Principles” in the determination of planning applications. These “Strategic Principles” have been used to guide the content of the entire Plan. They offer clear insight as to what will be considered acceptable by the Department from a strategic perspective.  

The Plan contains a strategic section with three separate policies that set the scene for the Plan as a whole and carry significant weight in the decision-making process. Presently in Bermuda, the public’s perception of the Department of Planning is that it performs a purely regulatory function. However, it is my view that planning, as a discipline, should be more aspirational. And so, I  hope that by having a strategic section of the Plan which proactively encourages forms of development that benefit the local community, we can change those perceptions and allow for a greater understanding of the positive impacts the systems of planning can have. 

Another critical component of the Plan is the identification of specific development opportunity sites. Development and investment are the cornerstones of regeneration. Through proactively identifying a range of sites that offer development or redevelopment potential, we hope that there will be knock-on benefits for the wider area. The development opportunity sites located in the Plan were identified through analysis and site visits. However, the list of sites is not exhaustive, and we are keen to hear from any landowners who would like to promote their land or buildings in this way. 

Identifying development opportunity sites is something the Department would like to roll out island-wide at a future date. This information would be contained within a dedicated development opportunity schedule. Such a document would effectively act as a marketing tool for domestic and international distribution, raising awareness of investment opportunities that exist in Bermuda. 

The Plan provides a renewed focus on attaining community benefits from development activity which is commonplace in many modern planning systems worldwide and should be pursued in Bermuda. In many instances, the granting of planning permission presents developers with the opportunity to generate significant financial returns, with minimal tangible benefits for the surrounding area. I believe that developers should be responsible for mitigating the impacts of their development and making financial investments in the broader area that further benefits the community. This Plan places the concept of Community Benefits within the strategic section and indicates its importance.

Whilst the concept of community benefits is of vital importance, we want to ensure that these requirements do not deter investors or render projects economically unviable. In all instances, we will make balanced decisions on the extent and type of community benefits being sought and discuss this with applicants. I am confident that everyone will have found this information to be of value. I now welcome you to visit the Department of Planning website at www.planning.gov.bm to review the document in its entirety. 

The public is encouraged to contact the Department of Planning to hear more on this progressive new Local Plan. The formal, statutory public consultation period will run from 2nd August until 8th October. All comments are encouraged to be submitted. This process will enable the Department of Planning to incorporate feedback into the final version of the Plan.