FRIDAY, JUNE 8: Government watchdog Arlene Brock today hit back at Government claims that the UK Environmental Charter was not legally binding.
Ombudsman Ms Brock was speaking as she tabled a special report on the controversial Special Development Order process – and she insisted that an environmental impact analysis (EIA) should be mandatory for major developments.
Ms Brock said: “With respect to the Government’s denial that the UK Environment Charter is a legally binding agreement, this special report sets out basic principles of international law on agreements between governments.
“Further, it details the genesis of the charter as well as statements and actions of the Bermuda and UK governments that prove that the commitments were intended to be implemented.”
Environment Minister Marc Bean last month denied Government had acted unlawfully during the row over the Tucker’s Point hotel development row.
Ms Brock had earlier said Government had failed to live up to its legal obligations to carry out an environmental impact assessment on the hotel expansion plan, which was slated for open space.
She said today: “I find the continued challenge to my jurisdiction inappropriate and many of the responses to the recommendations inadequate or even unresponsive.”
And she questioned why the UK government would create an Environment Fund to help the Overseas Territories to meet their obligations if the 2001 green charter was not intended to be binding.
Ms Brock said: “Certainly, there was never any expectation that – eleven years down the road – any signatory would try to claim that the commitments are only ‘aspirational’.
“The ultimate question is whether Bermuda will join the rest of the modern world in making Environmental Impact Assessments a requirement – prior to approval – for all proposed developments that are major or likely to cause significant adverse impact on the environment.”
Mr Bean spoke out after Ms Brock in February accused Government of breaking the law by failing to carry out an EIA into the Tucker’s Point proposals.
He said that Ms Brock had based her findings on “a misguided belief” that the UK Environment Charter was legally binding.
Ms Brock added that the legislation setting up the office of Ombudsman allowed her “to submit a special report if the authority has taken no action or has taken action that in the Ombudsman’s opinion is inadequate or inappropriate.”