Friday, March 04, 2005

Transporters protest against Funicular Project

Protesters make their way to the DTI where the Planning Commission met - Planning decision ‘will take time’

Just under 200 protesters gathered at the doors of the DTI after marching from the coach park yesterday morning to make sure the Development and Planning Commission is clear that they do not want the funicular project at Casemates to go ahead.

The Transport Lobby Group - taxi drivers, coach companies and workers from the GTB Upper Rock - joined ecologists and booed at Commission members Jaime Netto, Government minister and Aurelio Falero from LPS, as they and others arrived for their 2pm meeting.

Taxi and other transport services had halted from noon for three hours to later hear that the Commission has gone through some of the paper work but no decision has yet been taken. The Upper Rock Nature reserve was abandoned by its 23 employees who joined the protest in support of the TGWU and because they fear their own jobs are threatened.

In an unusual turn the long-standing warring between the taxis and coach company MH Bland seems to have been given a chance to bury the hatchet as both sides united to defend their interests from what they see as the funicular threat.

George Gaggero, of MH Bland the Cable Car owners said that he did not believe visitors would continue to walk the extra distance to the cable car for a similar experience on the funicular. But he was outraged that the bidding company seemed to have official encouragement, although he had assurances to the contrary and was critical of the lack of consultation with the affected sector.

The issue he believes is purely down to location and he points out that area of the Rock has never previously been available. Mr Gaggero confirmed that he believed that the existing transport trade will work closer in the future and he has already had meetings with taxi representatives who believe that would be a positive development. They want the Gibraltar Government to divert income from the Upper Rock reserve into improving that product.

Taxi drivers are concerned too. They told the Chronicle that as from April charges for entry to the Upper Rock go up £1 and they will have to absorb that cost.

The protestors also argue that with their collection of signatures heading towards 7,000 they have as much support as an average politician gaining a seat in the House.

The TGWU branch officer Charles Sisarello was present. After the meeting the DPC issued a statement saying that it had met to begin consideration of the outline planning application submitted by the developers of the proposed funicular:

This application is a complex one, and has generated opposition in certain quarters. The application has given rise to lively public debate and considerable public interest, which has prompted the Commission to make a public statement on this occasion with regard to the application.

The issue before the DPC is solely the issue of planning. The application will be considered from this perspective. Given that it is a complex application, the public should not expect the DPC to arrive at an immediate decision. Consideration of the application will need to take its course.

Over and above the application for outline planning consent, the applicant will need to obtain landlord’s consent for the proposed development from the owners of the land, namely the Government and, in relation to the area of Rock Gun, the Ministry of Defence.

The DP revealed that an objection was received by the DPC to the presence on the Commission of representatives of GONHS and the Gibraltar Heritage Trust (GHT). Before commencing consideration of the application, the DPC decided this preliminary matter and ruled that it was both permissible and desirable that representatives of the GHT and GONHS should sit on the DPC to consider this and any other application that comes before the Commission.

The DPC took account of the fact that it is mandatory in law that one member of the Commission shall be nominated by each of GONHS and the GHT, and that it is perfectly legitimate for the nominated representatives of GONHS and the GHT to bring to the Commission any objections that either of these bodies might have about any proposed development. Indeed, it is for this very reason that both the GHT and GONHS each nominate a member of the Commission.


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