Thursday, March 03, 2005

Ratcliffe unveils plans for World Launch Extravaganza

Funicular developers defy opposition • Free rides for residents over 65 and children under five

Renowned fashion designer John Galliano, Albert Hammond and The Strokes are among some of the big names that would be linked to the international launch of the Gibraltar funicular, developer and entrepreneur Leslie Ratcliffe of 21st Century Rock told the Chronicle yesterday.

Meanwhile as a decision by the Development and Planning Commission is awaited today, Mr Ratcliffe warns that if the anti-funicular group succeed in their opposition, “international investor confidence in Gibraltar will be shattered.”

“We plan to hold a spectacular charity musical extravaganza at the top of the rock station, promoted by Saatchi and Saatchi that would be offered to a potential audience of 250 million viewers world-wide. A Galliano dress show, music by top performers, a laser display that will join Gibraltar and Africa – the two pillars of Hercules – and all proceeds will be for Africa,” he declared.

Mr Ratcliffe who has been involved in property investments in Gibraltar for 25 years, has not lost any enthusiasm for the project and is undeterred by the anti-funicular lobby campaign. He defends the economic value of the project to Gibraltar and reckons that it would create 75 jobs in the construction industry and 50 more once it was completed.

We love Gibraltar and things Gibraltarian and desire to ensure continuous improvement in the quality of life for all living and working on the Rock. We want to help Gibraltar become a unique Mediterranean destination.

He also questions the accuracy of the TGWU claims that the funicular would cause redundancies, arguing that quite the contrary, it will create jobs and economic activity.

Mr Ratcliffe also noted that in recent months a leading contractor like Sharrock Shand had laid off 40 workers and could be losing another 20 in the next few weeks, and that the project could absorb many of the employees who have been made redundant.

He said that a funicular would greatly assist in alleviating local traffic congestion and reach places where taxis do not go. He says the funicular will act as a catalyst to ensure substantial investment in much needed infrastructure, maintenance and beautification to the Upper Rock, but vowed that this would be done “without taking a penny-piece from the Gibraltar Government or the people.”

Mr Ratcliffe says the funicular will open up sites of historical interest that are presently inaccessible to the general public, and that this would serve to enhance the local application for World Heritage Status by facilitating access. There will also be benefits to residents over 65 and children under five who will be given a free pass. All other residents will have 50% concessions. Additionally 1% of all ticket sales will be destined for local charitable associations.

Plans are also advanced with Hopscotch Films in UK to produce a documentary film on the construction of the funicular in association with Straitvision, with the Discovery Channel and BBCi having expressed a firm interest in broadcasting it. EON Production, the makers of the James Bond films would also wish to return to Gibraltar for their next film in 2007 including a scene of Gibraltar and the funicular in the script.

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