Lots of open space: How the area used to look at the time of the old Castle Harbour Hotel. *Photo courtesy of Scott Stallard
Lots of open space: How the area used to look at the time of the old Castle Harbour Hotel. *Photo courtesy of Scott Stallard
WEDNESDAY, MAR. 16: Protest groups are urging islanders to lobby the Senate on Friday as a crucial vote looms in the Tucker’s Point SDO debate.

They had planned a protest for today but it emerged yesterday that the Senate debate had been put back.

CURB (Citizens Uprooting Racism in Bermuda) said: “Please write to your Senators encouraging them to take action to protect this historically symbolic and irreplaceably pristine landscape.”

 The land proposed for development is privately owned by Tucker’s Point resort but is one of the largest areas of open space left in Bermuda, covering some 240 acres.

It contains pristine woodland and a network of underground caves.

The SDO seeks planning permission for 78 homes and 70 hotel rooms in this area.

The Bermuda Environmental and Sustainability Taskforce (BEST), Bermuda National Trust, Bermuda Audubon Society, Save Open Spaces, Buy Back Bermuda, Greenrock and other conservationists have all voiced strong objections.

BEST stresses the lands are protected by Nature Conserve, Woodland Reserve and Coastal Conserve zones. At the weekend the organization released a statement detailing why it believed the development should not go ahead.

“The land is owned by TPC but the rights to develop it are not. At the moment these rare large tracts of quality native woodland, caves and coastal areas are preserved for the benefit of all Bermuda. … Not only would the SDO take the value of that natural land from the Bermuda people, it would be taking it from the descendants of the original inhabitants, taking it from them without their consent.”

Conservationist David Wingate described the SDO as “insane”. He said the proposed development would have “catastrophic implications for Bermuda’s environment and economy”.

“The entire development relative to Bermuda’s land area would represent a loss of open space equivalent to Yellowstone National Park or the Everglades National Park on the continental scale,” he claimed.

Dr. Wingate, Bermuda’s first Conservation Officer, said most of the housing would be situated on steep, densely wooded hillsides. Therefore this would result in deforestation.

Land at Paynter’s Hill and Quarry Hill also lies within the Walsingham cave system and sink holes — home to “most of our remaining endangered endemic and native upland flora”.

This includes 17 of the 19 remaining Yellowwood trees from Bermuda’s original forest.

“The bottom line is that no amount of compliance with stringent Planning conditions short of not building at all would avoid massive environmental damage on those virgin hills at the density proposed with this new SDO,” Dr. Wingate said.

The Bermuda National Trust said: “These areas consist of some of the last natural refuges of critically endangered flora such as the Yellowwood tree and the endemic Wild Bermuda pepper, to name two.

“The larger the tract of undeveloped land, the more biodiversity it can sustain and to continue to fragment this area with development, as we have been advised this SDO will do, will severely degrade the habitat value of the area and Bermuda as a whole.” 

The Bermuda Audubon Society says the land is an important habitat to a variety of birds.

Government says it has attached a series of conditions to the SDO to “balance the economic needs of hotel development with the environmental needs of Bermuda”.

Before Final Planning Approval, any critical habitat and endemic plants must be recorded.

“Such sites and plants must be protected and provided with an adequate setback buffer,” Government said.

Protestors are asked to gather in the Cabinet Building grounds to protest from 9:30am on Friday.

For more, go to www.best.org.bm or www.tuckerspoint.com.

 

Special report: Tucker's Point