4M Harbour Island Limited has been ordered by the Supreme Court to halt work on its Briland Club Residences and Marina development after the court found that the Town Planning Committee (TPC) was not the body authorized to approve the project based on the perimeters of the Planning and Subdivision Act (PSA), which calls for approvals for projects on Harbour Island to be carried out by the Harbour Island District Council.
The ruling was delivered on Thursday by Justice Diane Stewart, who found that language in the PSA, or lack thereof, meant that TPC should not have been the body to supply the approvals for 4M’s project. During the case, both TPC and 4M, which were the respondent party and interested party (IP) respectively in the case, conceded the point that the mistake was made due to a misunderstanding of the law, though the applicants in the case, Benjamin Simmons and Br-Island Responsible Development Ltd. (BIRD), sought to contend that the PSA did apply to Harbour Island and the development.
The judge’s order quashed the approvals given by TPC and requires 4M to now seek approvals from the Harbour Island District Council.
The judgement contends: “A mandatory order requiring the respondent to exercise its powers under section 48 to require IP to cease development and restore the land to its condition before the unauthorized development took place and/or bring the development into conformity with any permit lawfully granted.”
The judgement further states: “I further order that the marina development be stayed pending an application being made to the appropriate authority and a decision made in compliance with the law.”
The judge in the case did not award full costs to Simmons and BIRD and ordered those parties to pay most of the cost of the substantive hearing and costs of the application for leave, while 4M was ordered to bear the cost of the application for the ex parte injunction.
“As the substantive judicial review application was simply to determine the reason for the quashing of the decision, the applicants did not succeed, on their primary ground and their alternate ground had been conceded,” the ruling states.
“The TPC’s reason for the quashing was only partially upheld by the court. Costs of the substantive hearing are awarded to 4M and 50 percent of the cost of TPC to be paid by the applicants on a standard basis.”
According to the PSA, Harbour Island is not specifically referenced as one of the islands where the Planning and Subdivision Act applies, which would mean approvals for such developments rest with the Harbour Island District Council.
The attorneys for Briland Club developers 4M have argued this interpretation, while opposing council representing Simmons and BIRD suggested that the PSA applies in this case.
Martin Lee Grant, the public relations officer for the Harbour Island District Council, told Guardian Business last month that there is support for the project because of the opportunities it will present for Harbour Island residents.
“It’s going to give Brilanders the opportunity for a better way of life,” Grant said.
“The project itself is an upgrade for the island. For the past 30 to 40 years we have been going back and forth with the small interest groups that want to keep Harbour Island back in the stone age.
“We have young Bahamians who have an opportunity to come back home to work for a reasonable wage. We are looking at the 4M project as an eye opener for us. It is going to upgrade our hospitality skills, it will upgrade the local vendors. This will be transformative for the young people who want to be entrepreneurs.”
According to Grant, of the 910 registered voters on Harbour Island, 724 signed the petition in favor of the 4M project.
“The morale in Harbour Island is very low,” he said. “We’re excited about it.”