Controversial changes to Special Development Orders were approved in the House of Assembly yesterday despite objections by the Opposition.

Walter Roban, the home affairs minister, said SDOs would undergo “far more transparency, scrutiny and testing” under global best practice rules previously not mandated – and an environmental assessment will be required by law.

He added that problems were created under the previous lack of oversight, which caused Unesco to threaten withdrawing the world heritage status of St George’s because of the new hotel.

Mr Roban opened the debate over the Development and Planning Amendment Act by highlighting the 2015 St George’s Resort Act, passed under the One Bermuda Alliance government, which led to the new St Regis Hotel.

He said it got in-principle planning permission with “no public involvement, consultation or advice, or advice from technical officers within the Department of Planning”, sparking “outcry” from area residents over the use of the beach.

Mr Roban added: “Even more worrying, as a result of the approved development, Unesco has since threatened that the world heritage status of St George’s is in danger of being revoked.”

He said having to bring SDOs before the House had been too unwieldy, causing developers to complain of delays.

Instead, SDOs will get advertised with the environmental impact assessment for 21 days of public scrutiny.

In addition, property owners will be able to get a higher level of conservation status for their land “enshrined by law”.

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