This document provides guidance and advice on all buildings of special architectural or historical interest and specifically Listed Buildings and buildings located within Historic Areas. It explains when planning permission is required and offers guidance to owners, occupiers and agents on how to retain the special architectural or historic character of a historic building when changes to the building are being considered.
In reviewing an application affecting a Listed Building or buildings located in Historic Areas, the Development Applications Board (DAB) may refer to this Development Control Guidance Note to ensure that the proposal preserves or enhances the historic building. In addition, this Guidance Note may also be referred to by anyone who may advise the DAB or the Minister of the Environment and Sports on matters affecting historic buildings.
The Department of Planning recommends that owners and/or agents discuss any proposal to alter Listed Buildings or buildings in Historic Areas as early as possible, that is, when change is being considered. In so doing, the special ‘character defining features’ of the building can be identified so that they are not harmed by any of the proposed changes.
For the purposes of this document, a historic building refers to either a Listed Building or a building located within a Historic Area.
a) The Development and Planning Act 1974
(i) Listed Buildings
A Listed Building has the meaning assigned to it under Part I, Section I of the Development and Planning Act 1974 and is a building designated under Part V, Section 30 of the Development and Planning Act 1974 for its special architectural or historic interest.
Part IV Section 14 (2) of the Development and Planning Act 1974 states that the definition of “development” includes:
“…the demolition or the making of any material alteration to the external appearance of a listed building…”
Consequently, planning permission is required for the demolition or the making of any material alteration to the external appearance of a Listed Building.
(ii) Historic Areas
A Historic Area has the meaning assigned to it under Part I, Section I of the Development and Planning Act 1974. Under Part V, Section 31 of the Development and Planning Act 1974, a development plan may appoint areas of Bermuda as Historic Areas.
Part IV Section 14 (3)(c)(ii) states that the definition of “development” includes:
“…any act in a historic area, being an act for the doing of which section 31 (2) provides that planning permission is required.”
Part V Section 31 (2) states that:
“…No person shall in a historic area do any development consisting of –
(a) Altering a building; or
(b) Commencing or continuing a building operation,
Unless planning permission therefore has been granted…”
Consequently, planning permission is required for altering a building or for commencing or continuing a building operation in a Historic Area. In the Draft Bermuda Plan 2018, Historic Areas are referred to as Historic Protection Areas.
b) Town of St. George (Protection of Buildings of Special Interest) Act 1950
For the purposes of defining development to a Listed Building or a building located in a Historic Area, the Town of St. George (Protection of Buildings of Special Interest) Act 1950 is referred to. Part II Section 4 of the Act states that the definition of “altering a building” includes:
“…if there is altered, moved or removed any external door, any window shutter, glass work, work of ornamentation or utility, or similar work fixture, feature or thing, being a part of or affixed to the building and in any degree affecting its external appearance.”
Part III Section 18 (1)(a)(i) of said Act states that the definition of “commencing or continuing a building operation” includes:
“…any alteration of the main fabric of an existing building which changes the external appearance of the building…”
Consequently, planning permission is required for any changes to the exterior of a building affecting its appearance in the St. George’s Preservation Area.
These guidance notes are pursuant to the Bermuda Plan 2018, particularly Chapters 9 (Design) and 22 (Historic Environment). Policies of particular importance in Chapter 9 include DSN.3 which states the conditions under which a “Design Statement” may be required, and DSN.24 which concerns buildings of historical and architectural interest). DSN.24 states:
“In determining an application which affects a building considered by the Board to be of special historical or architectural interest, the Board shall ensure that the appearance, siting and layout, scale, design, materials and details of development have no detrimental impact on the quality and character of the special building, and in so doing may require the submission of a design statement (refer to policy DSN.3).”
A Design Statement is a detailed explanation of a design concept, used to support an application for development that affects a building which proposes:
i. A gross floor area of 50,000 sq. ft. or more,
ii. 3 or more storeys,
iii. Residential development with a gross floor area of 5,000 sq. ft. or more,
iv. An innovative design that requires careful consideration,
v. To affect a building of special historical or architectural interest
vi. Any other proposal where the Board considers a Design Statement is necessary.
Policies of particular importance in Chapter 22 include HSC.4, HSC.5 (Listed Buildings) and HSC.6 (Historic Protection Areas) where planning permission will be refused under policy HSC.4 if it is seen by the Development Applications Board to cause detriment to:
(a) The established historic or architectural importance of the building; or
(b) The setting of the building within the property, including any outbuildings.
In the case of Historic Protection Areas, policy HSC.6 states that planning permission will be refused if it is seen to cause detriment to:
(a) The established historic, architectural or cultural character of the area;
(b) The aspect, appearance or view of the area; or
(c) A prospect or view from one or more parts of the area.
Chapter 22 also includes specific policies related to the Town of St. George Historic Protection Area, the Royal Naval Dockyard Historic Protection Area, the World Heritage Site and its buffer zone, and to sites of archaeological interest.
Applicants and agents proposing development in these areas should consult the relevant policies in the Draft Bermuda Plan 2018.
d) The Development and Planning (General Development) Order 1999
The Development and Planning (General Development) Order 1999 (GDO) does not apply to Listed Buildings or to Historic Areas as defined by Part V Sections 30 and 31 of the Development and Planning Act 1974. Even relatively minor alterations to a historic building could harm its special character and therefore planning permission is required for any material alteration to the external appearance of a Listed Building or to a building located within a Historic Area. Therefore, a GDO will only be applicable to proposals that affect the interior of these buildings or for minor development within the curtilage of a site but not affecting the historic building itself.
e) The Bermuda Residential Building Code Regulations 2014
Section 1.5 of the Bermuda Residential Building Code 2014 states:
“The provisions of this Code relating to the construction, repair, alteration, addition and restoration of existing buildings and structures listed by the Minister under the provisions of section 30 of the Development and Planning Act 1974, shall not be mandatory. Any variance to the code sought for such work shall require the support of the Historic Buildings Advisory Committee. Finally, any variance sought under this section must satisfy the Building Official that the intent of the Code, in terms of public health, safety and welfare, is maintained.”
This section of the Code enables the Building Official to take into account the potential impact of a requirement of the Code on the special character of a historic building. In order to preserve or enhance the special character of a historic building a variance to the Code may be allowed, provided that the Building Official is satisfied that the intent of the Code is being adhered to. The general authority of the Building Official to issue directions, including permitting a variance to the Code that would preserve or enhance the special character of a historic building, is also referred to in paragraph 2.10 of the Bermuda Residential Building Code 1998.
f) The Enforcement of Planning Control
Part X Sections 62 to 69 of the Development and Planning Act 1974 sets out details for the enforcement of planning control. An enforcement notice may be served on the owner or occupier of land where development is alleged to have taken place without the grant of planning permission or a building permit. In the case of unauthorised work to a historic building, an enforcement notice may require the land or building to be restored to the condition it was in before the alleged development took place. This may require the demolition or alteration of any unauthorised alterations to the historic building. If the enforcement notice is not complied with then the owner or occupier of the land may be subject to imprisonment, a fine or both.
A planning application for alterations to a Listed Building or a building located within a Historic Area should be made in the same way, and on the same application form, as for any other proposed development. However, no fees are payable for a planning application or building permit application where the proposal specifically affects a Listed Building (The Government Fees Amendment Regulations 2008; ref: Head 10 Building Authority Act 1962 and Head 19 Development and Planning Act 1974). However, any application for retroactive planning and/or building approval will be charged the retroactive application fees.
It is important that the application includes drawings of the existing building (or part of the building) and any features affected by the proposal. These should be accompanied by clear, annotated drawings that show what is being proposed. It is important that the areas to be altered are clearly marked, and it must be easy to understand where a change in materials is proposed.
In considering an application for alterations to a historic building, it is important to closely examine the details of the proposal. Therefore applications for “in principle” approval will not normally be appropriate. Instead, applicants should submit an application for Final Approval with full details of the proposal including photographs of the existing condition of the historic building and detailed information and/or specifications on products proposed.
Consultation with the Department of Planning in advance of the submission of an application is recommended for all proposals affecting a historic building, however minor. The Historic Buildings Advisory Committee (HBAC) is also available to provided guidance in advance of an application.
When the application itself is submitted, the Development Applications Board (DAB) may refer it to the Historic Buildings Advisory Committee (HBAC) and/or the St. George’s Preservation Authority (SGPA) for comments and advice.
It is general practice, however, to automatically send the application to one or both bodies in anticipation of the need for comments. Those applications that are referred to the Historic Buildings Advisory Committee (HBAC) are processed by the Heritage Officer or designate in the Department of Planning. Those applications that are referred also to the St. George’s Preservation Authority (SGPA) are processed by the Secretary of the Authority or designate in the Corporation of St. George. The comments from the Committee (HBAC) and/or the Authority (SGPA) are then sent to the Development Applications Board.
In circumstances where the proposed alteration is so very minor that it appears not to affect the integrity of a Listed Building, the Heritage Officer may provide a written opinion such that the proposed alteration is of such minimal or negligible impact that referral to the Historic Buildings Advisory Committee (HBAC) is not warranted. Minor alterations can include but are not limited to: installation of an electricity meter in an inconspicuous location of a Listed Building, a development well removed from or beyond the visual range of the part of a site or building that is Listed, and a subdivision that does not impair the relationship of the Listed Building to its associated landscape. Notwithstanding such circumstances, the Development Applications Board may still request comments from the Historic Buildings Advisory Committee (HBAC).
When considering a proposal that affects a Listed Building, the DAB and HBAC will take each case on its own merits. However, in order to give an indication of the likely scope for alteration to a Listed Building, a grading system has been devised. The grade has no statutory status but owners and their agents will be able to gain a general idea of the relative importance of a Listed Building and the extent of alteration that is likely to be appropriate for it by referring to the grade.
Grade ‘HM’ or Historic Monuments
Grade HM refers to buildings, structures or groups of buildings not originally intended for residential, commercial or administrative purposes but built as defensive structures, monuments, outbuildings or other ancillary structures. This category also includes buildings that have become significant ruins. Their aesthetic value may be modest but their historic significance and structural interest make them of vital historic importance. They are integral to both the Island’s history and to its cultural tourism. Alteration should normally be avoided and restoration should be on a like-for-like basis.
Grade 1 refers to buildings, structures or groups of buildings that have survived in essentially their original condition and that are of such exceptional interest and architectural or historical value that they should largely be preserved in their present form, both structurally and decoratively. Minor alterations or additions should normally be carried out in the same materials and in the same structural and decorative style as the original.
Grade 2 refers to buildings, structures or groups of buildings that have survived in such condition and are of such special interest and architectural or historical value that alterations and additions should be limited to works that do not impinge on those parts of the building to be protected and preserved. Such works should normally be carried out in the structural and decorative style of the existing buildings.
Grade 3 refers to buildings, structures or groups of buildings which serve Bermuda as an important visual amenity and are of such architectural or historical value that alterations or additions should normally be carried out in sympathy with the structural and decorative style dominant in the existing structure.
The Guiding Principles set out below represent the preferred approach to maintaining, repairing and replacing historic materials as well as designing new additions and making alterations. Reference to these principles will be particularly useful when the repair or replacement of deteriorated features is necessary and/or when alterations or additions to the property are planned for a new or continued use.
a) Wherever possible, a historic building should be used as it was historically, or be given a new use that requires minimal change to its distinctive materials, features, spaces, and spatial relationships.
b) The special architectural or historic character of a historic building should be retained and preserved. The removal of distinctive materials or alteration of features, spaces and spatial relationships that characterize a property is discouraged.
c) Each historic building represents a physical record of its time, place, and use and therefore any changes that create a false sense of historical development, such as adding conjectural features or elements from other historic properties, are discouraged.
d) Changes to a historic building that has acquired special architectural or historic significance in its own right should be treated as part of the special character of the building and, where possible, be retained and preserved.
e) Distinctive materials, features, finishes, and construction techniques or examples of craftsmanship that characterize a property should be preserved.
f) Deteriorated historic features should be repaired rather than replaced. Where the severity of deterioration requires replacement of a distinctive feature, the new feature should match the old in design, colour, texture, and, where possible, materials. Replacement of missing features should be substantiated by documentary and physical evidence.
g) Archaeological resources should be protected and preserved in place. (Note: The Development Applications Board may require the undertaking of a Preliminary Archaeological Assessment for any proposal impacting a Listed Building or Historic Protection Area, as referenced in the Bermuda Plan 2018, Section HSC.12. Please refer to the Archaeological Assessments Guidance Note.)
h) New additions, exterior alterations, or related new construction should not destroy historic materials, features, and spatial relationships that characterize the Listed Building. New work should be compatible with the historic materials, features, size, scale and proportion, and massing to protect the integrity of the property and its environment, while being distinguishable from older work.
i) New additions and adjacent or related new construction should be undertaken in such a manner that if removed in the future, the essential form and integrity of the Listed Building and its environment would be unimpaired.
Straightforward repairs and maintenance using like-for-like materials do not normally require planning permission. Government encourages and supports owners who maintain their historic building in good condition.
Planning permission is not required for any internal alteration. However, a building permit may be required depending on the nature of the work. Authentic and original internal features such as staircases, doors, wooden or plaster mouldings, fireplaces and floorboards should, where possible, be preserved. The Historic Buildings Advisory Committee (HBAC) is available to provide advice or guidance, at the owner’s request, regarding internal changes.
Planning permission is required for the demolition of all or any part of a Listed Building or building located within a Historic Area. Planning permission will not normally be granted for the demolition of any building or feature of a building that has special architectural or historic interest. However, in the past, unsympathetic alterations or additions may have been made to a historic building and, therefore, a proposal that seeks the demolition or removal of unsympathetic alterations or additions and their replacement with a scheme that enhances the special character of the building will normally be supported.
Any development proposed within the curtilage of a lot containing a Listed Building should have regard to the special architectural or historic interest of the building. Therefore, the applicant will be expected to demonstrate that the siting, scale and design of a proposal (including but not limited to new detached buildings such as a garage, pool house or any outbuilding, pool, boundary wall, gates, driveways) does not harm the character or appearance of the Listed Building. In addition, care should be taken to minimise the visual impact of hard-surfaced areas for parking.
Any development proposed to a building within a historic area should have regard to the established historic, architectural or cultural character of the area. Therefore, the applicant will be expected to demonstrate that the siting, scale and design of a proposal (including but not limited to new detached buildings such as a garage, pool house or any outbuilding, pool, boundary wall, gates, driveways) does not cause detriment to the aspect, appearance or view of the area.
Applications for subdivision should demonstrate that the setting of a historic building will not be materially harmed by the subdivision.
Planning permission is required for any excavation or rock cut adjacent to a historic building. The way in which a building sits in the landscape will often be an important part of the special character of a historic building. Consequently, applications to excavate around the base of a historic building (for example to enable easier access to a cellar level, or to create new doors or windows in a lower level) should demonstrate that the excavation does not cause harm to the special character or setting of the building.
Trees, hedges, pathways and gardens often contribute significantly to the setting of a historic building. Owners should ensure that where the landscaped setting of the building is to be altered that this does not cause harm to the setting of the building or character of the area.
It is important at the outset of a development proposal to establish with the Department of Planning those features of the building that give the building its special character. These ‘character defining features’ are expected to be conserved as part of any rehabilitation work. This may include the whole building, part of the building, or it may relate to an individual feature such as a chimney, a set of welcoming arms steps, or a verandah. It is also important to establish the “character defining features” of the area for proposals to buildings located within Historic Areas.
The Listed Building Record Sheet, which is kept by the building’s owner and the Department of Planning, includes a description of the building and will normally identify the building’s most important features. However this description is not comprehensive and the absence of any reference to a particular feature in the description does not necessarily mean that the feature has no architectural or historic interest.
Changing the colour of the paint on the exterior of a historic building will not normally require planning permission. However, if the proposed change is a significant departure from the traditional palette of Bermuda colours, the Development Applications Board may require a planning application to be made for the change.
There are a relatively small number of historic buildings that have a traditional cement wash finish rather than a paint finish. The Department of Planning will encourage the retention of this traditional finish where it contributes to the special character of the building.
Due to the poor water repelling qualities of most Bermuda stone there are very few examples of buildings that are faced with unplastered stone. The majority of these buildings are in the Royal Naval Dockyard and there are a small number of others scattered around the island. Where the external finish to the building consists of unplastered Bermuda stone, planning permission will be required to paint, plaster or otherwise change its appearance.
Planning permission is required to change the external finish of a historic building to any material other than the existing treatment. This includes alterations to wooden houses.
The rough or uneven texture of the exterior plastering of many historic buildings contributes positively to their special character. When repairs are made, particular care should be taken to ensure that the new finish closely matches the texture of the existing building. When alterations or additions are made, particular care should be taken to ensure that the new finish is sympathetic to the texture of the existing building.
Planning permission will be required to permanently enclose a traditional verandah. A traditional verandah is likely to be an important part of the character of a historic building. Enclosing the verandah with walls is likely to materially alter the character and appearance of the building, therefore enclosing traditional verandahs is discouraged.
It is recognized that for historic buildings to remain viable, contemporary services are necessary. The siting of electricity meters, air conditioning condenser units, satellite dishes, skylights, wind turbines and other external services should be carefully considered early in the project in order to minimise their visual impact. Where possible, these elements units should be sited away from the building altogether. Where this is not possible, a location should be sought that will not impact on the prominent elevations or features of the historic building.
To minimise the physical and visual impact of ducting and/or channelling on old walls, the routing and placing of service ducting should be considered carefully and agreed early in the planning stage. The aim should be to minimise the amount of disruption and damage to the historic fabric of the building and the repair of the plaster should look the same after the work is completed.
The scale of the building refers to its site coverage, all dimensions (floor-to-floor, length, depth, bays), total height and number of storeys. In most cases there will be opportunities for additions to be made to a historic building. However, applications for extending the size of a historic building shall have particular regard to the scale and massing of the existing building and also to the surrounding buildings in a Historic Area. Additions that are out of scale with the existing building or the Historic Area will not normally be permitted.
The form and layout of new additions should have regard to the established character of traditional building types. An understanding and appreciation of how the existing building has developed will be helpful in considering how the proposed extension can successfully relate to the existing structure.
Applications for alterations or additions to a historic building will be expected to demonstrate that the proposal has special regard to the design of the existing structure. Therefore, the architectural style(s) that the building has and the period(s) of construction that it represents will have a significant impact on the design of the alterations or additions. For example, if the building has a formal, symmetrical style then this is likely to influence the design approach taken when considering an addition. Similarly, a building that has a more vernacular or asymmetrical appearance is likely to benefit from a more informal design approach when an addition is being considered.
Particular care should be taken to ensure that the proportions of the existing building are understood and, where appropriate, have been taken into account in the design of the alterations or additions. This will be of particular importance with regard to the placing and relative dimensions of openings for windows and doors, the height from ground level to the eaves, and how much wall there is compared to the amount of window on the elevation.
The style and type of roof must also be considered when proposing alterations or additions. A number of factors will be important in deciding what style of roof is appropriate. These characteristics include whether the existing roof is a gable, a hip or a shed, if it has a lapped or a smooth finish, and if it has a steep or gentle pitch. The scale and use of the proposed addition also needs to be considered. For example, a shed roof will often be appropriate for small additions regardless of the roof style of the main building.
The treatment of the eaves should also be carefully considered. A choice needs to be made about the style of the eaves including whether they are to have exposed rafter feet or whether they are to be enclosed by plaster mouldings.
Planning permission is not required for repairs to the roof but a Building Permit is needed for any replacement that affects the structure of the building. When a roof needs to be replaced, particular care should be taken to ensure that the replacement retains the building’s special character.
Planning permission is likely to be required for any change in materials or features to the exterior of a historic building. The external materials of a historic building often form an essential part of the building’s special character. Therefore, it is likely that the most appropriate way of preserving the character of a historic building when designing alterations or additions will be to retain and repair as much of the authentic fabric as possible. Where this is not possible, the same external materials and finishes that were used in the original should be utilised. There may be exceptions to this and a case may be made that a change in style or materials is appropriate. However, in the majority of cases the following advice will apply:
The materials used for walls should have a traditional appearance. However, walls that are to be plastered may be constructed from concrete block, rather than Bermuda stone. This does not prevent the use of Bermuda stone for a building where the stone will be visible in the finished building, or where the use of stone is otherwise important to the authenticity or character of the building. In most cases, the rendered finish to new walls should have a texture and appearance to match the existing building.
The materials used for roofs should have a traditional appearance. However, roofs can be finished with either stone or concrete slates or a man-made alternative.
Planning permission is likely required to replace windows and/or window frames in a Listed Building or building located within a Historic Area. However, if the proposed replacement is an exact replica of the existing, traditional window, permission is not required.
Wooden windows, frames and shutters contribute significantly to the special character of many Bermudian buildings. Therefore, windows in historic buildings should be retained and repaired wherever possible. This applies not only to the wood but also to the original glass. Where the materials need to be replaced, they should be replaced with the same material. The climate provides a significant test for materials used in windows and window frames. These have traditionally been made of wood. Many good examples survive that have been well maintained. This is particularly true of windows that are made of local cedar.
Owners are encouraged to explore the cost of the repair and refurbishment of existing wood windows, frames and sills, before considering alternative replacements. If alternative replacements are deemed necessary, then new hardwood or softwood replacements should be considered.
If a window needs to be replaced, the replacement should reflect as closely as possible the characteristics of the existing windows, or other windows in the building. The new windows shall be of the appropriate period and style. The depth of reveals, the width and other dimensions of the window and its frame, and the character of glazing bars are all-important qualities that any replacement should match.
Man-made materials, such as aluminium or upvc, are becoming more popular and are promoted as having a low or no maintenance requirement. Wooden windows can be painted and repaired as they age in order to keep them in good condition. It is not clear how well man-made materials will weather in the Bermuda climate and it is worth noting that these cannot be repaired or refinished easily. If an aluminium or upvc window fails, then it is likely that the whole window will have to be replaced rather than repaired. Care also needs to be taken to ensure that there is a solid frame for the window to sit in because this is where the hinges for shutters and blinds need to be fixed. Without this frame it can be difficult to reaffix the shutters. If only one or two windows need replacing then, in order to avoid a patchwork effect and to retain the special character of the building, these should be replaced by windows that exactly match the existing.
In some instances, historic buildings will have had unsympathetic and atypical replacement windows. When the time comes for these to be replaced, the opportunity should be taken to replace them with a size and proportion of window that is more appropriate for the style and period of the building.
Planning permission is required to change the size of an opening for a door or window. The size, position and proportions of the structural opening that a window sits in should be respected when the time comes to replace the window or frame. These characteristics contribute positively to the special character of a historic building and therefore, permission will not normally be given for alterations to the size, position or proportions of openings for replacement windows.
Wooden windows and their frames have traditionally been painted rather than stained and varnished. This not only provides a more traditional appearance than leaving the wood exposed, but it will also help to protect the wood from the harmful effects of the climate. The use of shutters or blinds, particularly top hung blinds, will also provide added protection to the window.
There is no requirement for windows in an addition to a historic building to be made of wood. However, where the windows are made of aluminium or upvc, and the window has a traditional appearance, the glazing bars should be three-dimensional and have the same or similar profile to the existing. Flat strip glazing bars will not be acceptable.
Shutters and blinds have been a practical and distinctive part of Bermuda’s buildings for centuries. They have traditionally been made of wood and there are a number of good examples of early styles still around. There are three main types. These are the solid shutter, which is generally side hung, and two types of louvered blinds; top-hung and side-hung. The type and style of the shutter should be appropriate for the style and period of the building.
Early shutters were often solid and these continued to be used into the 19th century on commercial buildings, particularly at ground floor level. Where these still exist, every effort should be made to repair and retain them. Where this is not possible, they should be replaced in wood to the same design.
Louvered blinds are the most typical protection for windows. They are either top-hung or side-hung. The top-hung has the advantage of providing protection to the window from the elements. Early versions of these blinds were constructed with deep, well-spaced louvers. They were designed so that the rain would be kept out, even when the windows were open for air circulation. The design also allowed the maximum ambient light in, provided a view out through the shutter, but kept out all of the harmful direct sunlight. Where these still exist, every effort should be made to repair and retain them. Where this is not possible, they should be replaced in wood to the same design.
On more recent styles, particularly where these are made from aluminium, the louvers are shallower, narrower and closer together. Consequently, the blind appears, to all intents and purposes, to be solid. When this type of blind requires replacement, the opportunity should be taken to replace it with one that has a more traditional appearance. This replacement will normally be made from hardwood and painted but man-made materials may be acceptable providing that the dimensions and proportions of the new blind match the typical style for the period of the building.
With regard to side-hung blinds, where original ones still exist, every effort should be made to repair and retain them. Where this is not possible, they should be replaced in wood to the same design. This replacement will normally be made from hardwood and painted but man-made materials may be acceptable providing that the dimensions and proportions of the new blind exactly match the existing one or match the typical style for the period of the building.
Planning permission is likely to be required for the replacement of an external door. If the proposed replacement is an exact replica of the existing, appropriate door, planning permission is not required. Where possible, existing external doors should be retained and repaired. Where this is not possible, the new door should match the style and appearance of the existing one. Fanlights and sidelights should be retained.
Planning permission is likely to be required for the removal or replacement of a verandah. If the proposed replacement is an exact replica of the existing verandah, permission is not required. Where possible, existing verandahs, porches, railings and other decorative woodwork should be retained and repaired rather than replaced. Where this is not possible, replacements should have the same style and appearance as the original. In some cases it will be possible to substitute man-made materials for some of the wooden elements. For example, the posts for a verandah can be replaced with box section steel, painted to match the rest of the structure. In addition, decorative details such as balusters, spindles and brackets can be made from materials other than wood providing that the finished appearance closely matches that of painted wood.
Planning permission is likely to be required for the alteration or removal of any external detail or architectural feature that contributes to the special character of a historic building. Details and architectural features make a significant contribution to the overall character of most historic buildings. Therefore, any proposal to alter or remove an existing feature will be carefully assessed in order to ensure that the alteration or removal does not harm the special character of the building. In some cases, such as where a later inappropriate detail has been added, permission may be given to alter or remove it. However, in most instances features such as stone, plaster or timber details around doors, windows, and verandahs form part of the character of the building and should be retained.
Planning permission is likely to be required for the addition of a new external detail or architectural feature that would alter the special character of the historic building. The addition of external details or architectural features will not normally be permitted on existing buildings unless there is sufficient evidence to support the reinstatement of a lost detail.
Whilst the scale and massing of a proposed addition to a historic building will often be the most significant issue to resolve, it is also important to ensure that the architectural detail and style of the addition is appropriate. Additions that echo the style of the original structure and additions that introduce compatible contemporary design are both likely to be acceptable. If the style of the addition is intended to reflect the character of the existing building then it is important that the details reflect the correct stylistic period.
Architectural historians believe that the essence of good Bermudian architecture, as with all other architecture, is to be found in its proportions. A tradition of simplicity also informs most of Bermuda’s early vernacular architecture.
Decorative details were, for the most part, of practical application and are properly confined to the period of such practicality. Eyebrows, for example, were used on houses of the early eighteenth century to deflect rain from running down the wall onto their casement windows. After casement windows went out of style, eyebrows disappeared until the vernacular revival of the 1920s and 30s, when they were used as purely decorative features.
In alterations to historic buildings, it is recommended that decorative features should generally be confined to those already to be found in the earlier existing parts of the building, the style of which is to be expressed in the proposed alteration. Such decorative features include, but are not confined to the following, listed roughly by period.
Plain gable ends, Flemish gables, exposed rafter feet, wooden wall plates with windows directly beneath without intervening masonry, complex rain gutters, string courses, eyebrows and buttresses, generally added to counteract the effects of sagging roofs.
Architectural features include welcoming arms steps, barrel vaulted external water tanks, separate kitchens (often believed to be slave quarters), outbuildings such as butteries. No example is known of an early buttery that is connected to, or part of, the principal building. Therefore it is recommended that the use of buttery roofs on principal buildings be avoided.
The introduction of concrete allowed for expanded decorative treatments which included pedimented gables and enclosed eaves, cornices, pilasters, quoins, moulded string courses, architraves, window hood moulds, keystones and decorative wooden framework and turnings.
Architectural features include verandahs and smooth slate roofs. It is important to note that 1801 was not a ‘cut-off’ date. Many of the features of the 18th century, particularly barrel vaulted tanks, continued well into the 19th century, and some of the 19th century features appeared in the last decade of the 18th century. A good but imperfect guide may be found in chimney styles.
The most distinctive stylistic change in the early 20th century was the vernacular revival.
Many of the typical features of 18th century buildings such as Flemish gables, exposed rafter feet, eyebrows and buttresses were adapted and applied to contemporary plans and layouts. The vernacular revival of recent times has been succeeded by a revival of 19th century styles.
The Department of Planning, in partnership with the Bermuda National Trust, has produced a book entitled The Traditional Building Guide: Advice for Preserving Bermuda’s Architectural Heritage. This book is a field guide and offers advice and guidance to homeowners, builders and architects about how to preserve Bermuda’s traditional buildings and building methods.
The Bermuda National Trust owns and manages a number of important historic houses and consequently has a considerable amount of experience in the care and repair of historic buildings.
There are many good websites that deal with the issues of conservation, preservation and the care and maintenance of historic buildings. The site created by the National Parks Service in the USA is a particularly useful starting point. This site has links to other helpful sites and can be found at www.nps.gov. Additionally, the various international charters for appropriate heritage conservation can be found on www.icomos.org.
Historic windows, doors and other external features are important because these form an integral part of the overall fabric of old buildings and add to their special character. There is usually a similarity of style and detail between windows, doors and other decorative timberwork. A change to the style or appearance of one of these features can disrupt the overall harmony of the building. The result can be jarring. Moreover, specific historic details are appropriate on certain styles and periods of buildings and have evolved over time. It is important to maintain these subtle visual distinctions in order that the character of individual historic buildings, and thus the identity of the wider surroundings and the Island as a whole, is conserved for future generations.
There are clearly major differences in the various styles of windows and doors. Windows can be sliding sashes, inward or outward-opening casements, top-hung or pivoted. Doors can be solid with a variety of panel shapes and sizes or they can be glazed, part-glazed or boarded. Major changes to these features can alter the appearance of a building significantly. The character of historic windows and doors derives from a whole range of inter-related shapes, details, colours and materials.
Doors rely very much for their effect on the size and proportion of the panels, the type of mouldings and the shape and details of the glazed fanlights over the door. Sash windows rely on details such as the thickness of the glazing bars and their shape, the dimensions of the frames from which the moving sashes are constructed, the width of the sash boxes and the extent to which they are recessed into the wall, and the size of the sills.
The quality of the glass can also play a significant part – handmade crown or cylinder glass which often survives in historic windows tends to be slightly uneven, giving multiple reflections whereas modern float glass is completely flat and has a relatively lifeless appearance. Finally, the way in which windows are painted can give a building a distinctive character. Traditionally Bermuda’s windows and frames have been painted in a range of appropriate colours. The widespread use of upvc or aluminium replacements, which are generally white, is destroying this pleasing tradition.
The historical details referred to above may also vary over time. There are fundamental differences between windows up to the mid-19th century and windows after that period. The details of windows, doors and other features should be appropriate to the period of the building.
Whilst it may seem that changes to these external details are not significant, the cumulative effect of such alterations can have a material effect on the appearance of historic buildings, particularly when the building forms part of a uniform group where traditional details have survived in many of the surrounding buildings.
In the case of historic buildings which are Listed Buildings, there is a presumption that all existing historic windows and external doors will be repaired wherever possible, using materials and details to match the existing. Where repair is impracticable, replacements should carefully replicate the existing historic windows or doors in terms of materials, proportions, dimensions and decorative details, or be constructed in another historically appropriate style agreed to by the Historic Buildings Advisory Committee (HBAC). A similar presumption applies to other historical external features and details.
For structures that have a Protection Order placed upon them by the St. George’s Preservation Authority, a similar presumption will apply as for Policy 1.
For structures located within the St. George’s World Heritage Site (St. George’s Historic Area), a similar presumption will apply as for Policy 1.
For other buildings, which are located within other Historic Areas, a similar presumption will apply as for Listed Buildings in relation to features, which are located in primary elevations or are visible from public thoroughfares. For secondary or rear elevations which are hidden from public view, a less restrictive approach to materials and details may be adopted and exact replication, though desirable, may not always be required.
Any breach of the requirements set out above is likely to result in enforcement action being taken against the owner and/or occupier with the view to the reinstatement of windows, doors or other features to an appropriate design, and may also result in prosecution.
Letters of objection and/or representation should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org referencing the PLAN or SUB number in the subject line.