The Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Taskforce (BEST) has called on government to scrap proposed amendments to the Planning Act tabled in the House of Assembly last week.

In a statement released on Friday (July 9), the environmental watchdog group said the proposed changes to the way Special Development Orders are granted could pave the way for the Fairmont Southampton Resort to be sold.

“Under these Amendments, the Government will have the ability to approve future Special Development Orders (SDOs) and Emergency Development Orders by negative resolution,” the group said.

“It is understood that this will allow the Minister and Government a possible way to avoid having SDOs tabled and debated in the House before coming into effect.

“It should be noted that this part of the Planning Act was amended in 2011 by the Government to require a positive resolution. An Act brought forward by positive resolution must be tabled, debated and passed before coming into law, whereas a negative resolution does not.

“BEST strongly urges the Government to withdraw this bill.”

The group also noted that the Minister of Home Affairs, Walter Roban, who tabled the Bill “eloquently stated at that time that the amendment would, ‘clarify that a Special Development Order is a statutory instrument and thus subject to Parliamentary scrutiny, which would allow for greater transparency and openness of process … Further, it is proposed that the appropriate scrutiny should be via affirmative resolution procedure, thereby enabling the legislature to fully consider and debate all the permissions and conditions to be attached to a Special Development Order’.

“At the second reading of the Amendments, the Minister added that ‘This will ensure transparency of the decision-making process and the ability for Parliament, the Legislature, and the public to comment and openly debate such orders.’

“What has changed since 2011?”

BEST also urged members of the public to oppose the changes, saying: “Bermudians must have a say before the Government is allowed to ‘pave over paradise’!”