An advisory body set up to protect Bermuda’s national parks from overdevelopment has been disbanded by the Government.
One former member of the National Parks Commission has expressed concern that planning applications could now be rubber-stamped by authorities without any input from the independent commission.
The 11-member body, which includes representatives from the National Trust, the Audubon Society, the National Museum of Bermuda, the Bermuda Zoological Society and the Bermuda Tourism Authority, is designed to represent the viewpoints and expertise of a broad range of stakeholders.
It was set up to make recommendations to the Government on any proposed development within the parks.
But in December, Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, the Minister of Public Works, wrote to members telling them that they were no longer required.
Colonel Burch wrote: “We will be making modifications and administrative changes in the first quarter of 2023 and I am choosing to take the Parks Commission in a new direction.”
He later accused commission members of acting beyond their authority.
In a letter to the Bermuda Audubon Society last month, Colonel Burch said: “The Parks Commission have been acting outside of that legislation and in spite of ministry attempts to get them to operate within the law there has been no progress.
“As such there is a need for legislative change which we are advancing and there will be no appointment of a commission until that process is completed.“
Yesterday a spokesperson for the Bermuda Audubon Society expressed alarm at the move.
The spokesperson said: “The embodiment and composition of the Commission is outlined in the Bermuda National Parks Act of 1986 and by failing to appoint a commission, Minister Burch is not following the mandates of the Act.
“The commission was established to serve an advisory role to the Minister responsible for parks and has specified roles and responsibilities in the evaluation process for any new developments and management plans for the parks.
“Their input is meant to ensure that the Bermuda Government is a responsible steward and guardian of our precious open spaces and is well advised on how best to take advantage of one of Bermuda’s most valuable resources, our national park system.
“Without this input, we fear that the parks will lose their essential value for the enjoyment and benefit of the people of Bermuda.