Royal Gazette: Planned development puts Devonshire Marsh at risk
Letter to the Editor
Bermuda’s environmental organisations continue to do all we can to advocate for conservation of our island’s environment, but sometimes we lose – and Bermuda loses too.
The latest casualty is property on Devonshire Marsh zoned Open Space at 79 Middle Road, Devonshire, owned by Island Construction Services. For more than 20 years the Trust has been battling to uphold the protective zoning at this site, despite its history of industrial use, because of the ecological importance of the marsh in which it sits and Bermuda’s largest freshwater lens beneath its soil.
Despite having turned down previous versions of this development application three times before and an application for rezoning under the 2018 Bermuda Plan, the Development Applications Board has recently given the go-ahead for extensive additional development at this sensitive site, including three two-storey maintenance and storage buildings and five one-bedroom staff apartments, parking (for 55 cars and 44 bikes), and a driveway. All of this is on a three-acre site on the Marsh.
The Bermuda Audubon Society, Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Taskforce and the Bermuda National Trust have jointly submitted an appeal against the decision.
The proposed development well exceeds what would be permitted on protectively zoned property; in fact, this intensity of development would not even be allowed under the terms of land with “industrial” zoning. Ironically, permission has been given on the basis of the historical sifting of aggregate on the property. And yet, aggregate sifting is not the proposed use for the site. It will now be a mix of industrial use (a base for trucking services including shipping and container haulage), and residential use that would not normally be allowed on an industrial site.
Devonshire Marsh is the largest area of open space in Bermuda, with the largest peat marsh habitat, notably one of the few marshes that was never used for dumping trash. It sits above the island’s largest freshwater lens. The marsh assists in purifying rainfall run-off from the roads, to become our drinking water. To allow the intensification of industrial use on this site threatens the marsh with increased fire risk, and increases the risk of environmental pollution in the marsh and water contamination.
To say we are disappointed with this decision is an understatement. We hope that the Minister of the Environment will heed our appeal and choose to turn down this expanded development, in the interests of the whole Bermuda community.