05/08/10) Bernews.com

Supreme Court Quashes Beach Bar Decision

Yesterday [Aug 4] in Supreme Court, Justice Ian Kawaley in a historic ruling quashed Environment Minister Glen Blakeney’s decision allow a beach bar to be built on Warwick Long Bay.The Minister’s decision came after the Development Applications Board refused the application, and several experts including an Independent Planning Inspector brought in to advise the Minister are said to have advised against allowing the beach bar for environmental and related reasons.

The Bermuda Environmental and Sustainability Taskforce (BEST) joined with neighbours and other concerned citizens and launched a campaign to save Warwick Long Bay, with a public meeting, a demonstration at the site, a letter-writing campaign and a paper and online petition that gathered thousands of signatures. BEST asked the Courts for a Judicial Review of the Minister’s decision.

Yesterday’s ruling is the culmination of a campaign lasting almost two-and-a-half years.

BEST Chairman, Mr. Stuart Hayward, was jubilant on hearing the news. “This is indeed a celebratory moment.” He said. “After months and months of government delays, the case finally made it into Court and, after hearing our opening arguments presented by Barrister Tim Marshall of MDM, the government capitulated without offering any evidence.”

Mr. Hayward said that of all the public beaches in Bermuda, Warwick Long Bay is the most unspoiled and one of the most sensitive. “Warwick Long Bay is the one beach that has the best chance of showcasing Bermuda in its natural state. Parks legislation was introduced in Bermuda specifically to preserve some areas from commercial encroachment. And while several of Bermuda’s public beaches have succumbed to the pressures of commercialization, this ruling holds the line at Warwick Long Bay.”

Mr Hayward believes this is the first time a Cabinet Minister’s discretionary decision has been successfully challenged in Bermuda’s Courts. “While the Environment Minister has wide discretionary powers in Planning matters,” Mr. Hayward said, ” “there is a legitimate expectation that he will exercise that discretion in a manner that is reasoned, fair and unbiased. But if he gives only superficial reasons or no reasons at all, as was the case here, the public has no way to know whether his decision was reasoned or based merely on a whim.”

“This case and its result gives the Bermuda public an assurance that there are legal remedies when citizens’ rights are trampled by arbitrary or unreasoned decisions by government Ministers. The neighbours of Warwick Long Bay who originally launched this campaign are now vindicated. Their actions to preserve public parklands have borne fruit. And all those visitors and locals who signed the petition and wrote letters to halt the commercialisation of one of the Island’s most pristine public beaches can take comfort that their efforts were not in vain.”

Dr Katherine Michelmore of the Bermuda Democratic Alliance said “I have just learned that the Attorney General’s Chambers have withdrawn their opposition to the BEST Warwick Long Bay Appeal. The Judge has ruled in favour of the the Department of Planning’s original decision to prevent the development of the beach bar. Congratulations to Stuart Hayward and BEST, and to their legal team.
A success for… the community and for the preservation of open space in Bermuda!”