Plans submitted last year to transform a section of Southlands into a parking area and events lawn were recommended for refusal due to “deficiencies” in the submission.

Originally intended to support the nearby Bermudiana Beach Resort and improve public access to Southlands, the plans were set to go before the Development Applications Board (DAB) on Thursday (April 6).

But a report from a planning officer said the applicant had not responded to a number of concerns raised by the end of March.

The report also noted that the board had no discretion to approve such a development within a Woodland Reserve Conservation Area.

“In addition, the proposed events lawn and associated development is not essential to the maintenance, conservation, enhancement or enjoyment of the park, the use of chain-link fencing is not considered to be appropriate, it has not been demonstrated that vehicles can safely exit the site, and there would be a net loss in the conservation and aesthetic value of the site and wider area,” the report added.

It was also noted that consultation with the recently disbanded National Parks Commission was not possible, although the Department of Parks had been consulted “in lieu”. And the lack of feedback from the commission was not considered “critical” to the assessment of the application.

In February, the Department of Parks supported the plan, saying that it was “encouraged” by the intent to rejuvenate and protect a former gun battery at the site.

The letter said: “We also appreciate that the parking lot drawings showcase a number of plantings,” the letter continued.

“We hope that we can work with the resort in order to establish trails between the two parking lots proposed for this area with plantings of endemic and native species.”

The application, submitted by the Bermuda Housing Corporation, called for the creation of an events lawn on the southeastern portion of the park, next to the Bermudiana Beach Resort.

The lawn was described as “an integral component of hotel use”, with accessible parking for the public to improve access to the park and beach.

Similar plans for the site were rejected by the DAB in 2019, when the National Parks Commission raised concerns about the “excessive” size of the changes proposed.

Both applications were by environmental groups on the grounds that it would compromise valuable parkland.

A DAB report recommended that the application be refused, saying that the applicant had been informed of concerns and “inaccuracies” in the proposal.

The DAB also noted that while a number of concerns were raised by objectors, including claims that the application included “significant inaccuracies” about the composition of the woodlands, no response had been received.

“Such an assessment should have been carried out prior to the submission of a planning application and informed the proposed design,” the report said.

“Indeed, as per the advice of Terrestrial Conservation Services, with the exception of individual large trees, the current application site contains the highest density of quality endemic and native vegetation within the entirety of the Southlands Estate property.”

The report added that while a conservation management plan was submitted, it did not appear to show on-site conditions accurately.

“Based on the details provided, it is apparent that the proposal would result in a notable conservation loss and would be detrimental to the visual amenity of the area by replacing a high-quality woodland with a parking lot and events lawn containing sparse planting.

“While the submitted CMP indicates that trees would be replanted, it states that such trees only ‘may’ be re-used.

“The transplantation of some species may be supported, in principle, particularly to the coastal areas at Southlands. However, bay grape does not transplant easily and potential for successful and vibrant relocation is often low.”

While noting that the proposed parking area would provide a “safe and convenient arrangement” for those who visit the park, under the proposal, the report said it would come at the cost of high-quality woodland.