the blog posts

one bermuda alliance and the environment

As you know, Bermuda had a general election last week and the Opposition One Bermuda Alliance squeaked past the post to become the party forming our new government. As an urban planner, I was curious about where their 19-17 seat win would take us in terms of the environment.

Below is an extract from the OBA platform which appears under the heading “Environment” in the document More OBA Solutions.

Reading through it, a couple of things stand out for me. First, some of these tasks the PLP government promised before, in some cases going so far as to hire consultants, only nothing actually happened. Let’s hope we are not in for a repeat.

Second, other promises intend to initiate corrective actions when, frankly, the solutions are in place already. The challenge is the political and/or judicial processes within which they are undertaken. (In the case of illegal development, it is far more complex than simply pursuing people in accordance with current law. I know. I tried hard in the late nineties, when I was Assistant Director in the Department of Planning, and came away only with a bruised head.)

Glancing through the OBA platform documents generally, it is clear that authentic ‘joined up thinking’ is needed for Bermuda to be a success story. In my opinion, active recognition of the connectivity of Bermuda’s social, economic and environmental issues is crucial.

In any case, read for yourself the OBA platform on the environment.

A One Bermuda Alliance Government will protect Bermuda’s fragile environment for future generations and present-day enjoyment.

We will:

  • Incorporate environmental considerations in all government decision-making.
  • Support the Blue Halo initiative.
  • Pursue solutions to the problems of feral animals and invasive species.
  • Perform an operational review and an organizational methods review of the entire Planning process to make the Planning Department more user friendly.
  • Review Special Development Orders protocols granted to the Environment Minister to ensure the process is clearly articulated, transparent and fair.
  • Expand and upgrade neighbourhood parks, recreational and open green space, coastal parks and picnic areas.
  • Aggressively pursue illegal developments in accordance with Bermuda's Planning laws.
  • Require environment impact studies to be done on all major and unusual developments and projects.
  • Promote the "Polluter Pays Principle" through proper enforcement and increases in penalties for littering, illegal dumping and other actions dangerous to the environment.
  • Provide incentives for the development of brown field sites.
  • Open the Southlands National Park.
  • Establish a National reforestation plan, along with a national seed bank.
  • Establish a White Paper for the development of Bermuda's Agricultural Industry.
  • Review legislation to promote the greater use of bio-pesticides.
  • Encourage a cottage industry for local produce, and support light manufacturing, agriculture, fisheries and food processing industries.
  • Conduct coastal sensitivity mapping to identify risk hazards and vulnerable areas.
  • Work to bring affordable hurricane insurance to fishermen.
  • Establish training programmes and initiatives for the use of new technologies in fishing.

city parklets

I was amused and jollied the other day to see the Christmas tree set up on Reid Street, outside Gibbons. The department store has commandeered a car parking space and erected a Christmas tree, decorations and all.

I believe it's great for a couple of reasons. First, every time there is talk of pedestrianising lower Reid Street, business owners are understandably concerned that the loss of street parking will result in a loss of customers. After all, this is a community that thinks the walk from Bull's Head Car Park on the north side of the city to Front Street on the south side is akin to a mini version of the End-to-End trek. Never mind that distances in Hamilton are measured in yards not miles. While the Christmas tree results in the loss of only one parking space, it adds immeasurable sparkle to the season. Kudos to Gibbons for doing it!

Second, the pedestrianisation discussion is more than 20 years old now, so shouldn't we try to move things along? A slow but determined occupation of car parking spaces might help demonstrate that Bermudians can walk and we do love to shop. The Gibbons Christmas tree would be even more wonderful, for example, if the store had taken over two spaces, installed some benches for weary shoppers and - voila! - created a parklet. Further down the street the Chatterbox Cafe could place benches and small tables in front of its shop too.

Maybe, instead of assuming all cars will be removed at once - clearly a disturbing prospect for some - we could build up to it? Make lower Reid Street vehicle-free for just the weekend to start? Design and install a series of parklets so that shoppers and businesses can envision the future? We can see how that works and then try a little more for a little longer. 

The possibilities are quite wide ranging but we should either get on with it or stop talking about it.

placemaking: a quick primer

It seems much of this blog is becoming devoted to the concept and principles of placemaking. That wasn't the intention when I started but the steady drift is noticeable as I review past posts.

Somewhat isolated on this island in the Atlantic wilderness, I look for articles that can better explain the concept than my fumbling attempts. I actually found a short film by Eric Becker entitled Placemaking & Seattle, which is highlighted in the article Saving Seattle's Neighbourhood Authenticity Through Better Buildings at The Atlantic Cities. It is very good.

Please sit back, relax, view and learn. 

Placemaking & Seattle from eric becker on Vimeo.