Monday, July 25, 2005

Six new major development plans in the pipeline

Tall buildings set to dominate Gib landscape • Land scarcity is a factor, says Holliday

The Government of Gibraltar is working on the final draft of a development plan that will set out clear guidelines for future construction work on the Rock.

The plan, which should be ready by the end of the year, comes at a time of dramatic change in Gibraltar’s urban landscape.

There are currently at least nine projects - some of them already under construction, others in various stages of obtaining planning permission – which envisage tall buildings that could radically alter the Rock’s skyline if they all go ahead.

Joe Holliday, Minister for Trade, Industry and Communications, said last week that scarcity of land in Gibraltar has led to greater demand for taller buildings. But he added that applications for such buildings must be handled sensitively to reflect environmental and heritage concerns, among other issues.

Of the major projects now being built or at planning stage, most tend to share common features in that they figure striking, modern architectural designs that would not be out of place in any contemporary capital.

But in some cases, they have drawn flack from members of the public who have expressed concerns about the height of some of the proposed buildings and the broader impact that these may have on their surroundings.

Some of the ongoing projects are well known and include developments such as the Eastside project, Ocean Village and Tradewinds.

Within the past fortnight, attention has focused on a recently filed application for a 95-metre high, 28-storey annexe to the Eliott Hotel, which would be built on a plot of land on Cannon Lane currently used as a car park.

But there are other projects that have been less publicised. The following list is not exhaustive – there may be more - and many of these projects are still in the early phases of the planning application process. They include:

King’s Wharf, a major residential development that would be built on a site next to Queensway Quay and includes plans for a 78.5 metre high, 22-storey tower, among other buildings of staggered height;

The Anchorage, next to Rosia Bay, a heritage-focused residential project that includes plans for a 9-storey, 31.2 metre building, among others;

Filomena House, on Devil’s Tower Road next to St Teresa’s Church, another residential project centred on a 10-storey building that is 37.28 metres high at its tallest point;

The Midtown Project, a wide-ranging development led by government that includes a plan to build a 115-metre high tower just outside the city walls which, if it goes ahead, would be the tallest building in Gibraltar;

Peak House, a 7-storey residential project in a prominent, cliff-top location close to Lathbury Barracks;

North Mole Road, which foresees a 28-metre high, 7-storey office development on the site of the ex-MOT centre.

Mr Holliday told the Chronicle on Friday that current applications were subjected to close scrutiny and that existing guidelines – for example on height restrictions within the city walls, or in relation to aviation safety issues – were being followed.

Any project that envisages a tall building – he used the Midtown Project as an example – is subjected to an aeronautical study, reviewed by the Ministry of Defence, to ensure it does not pose a danger to air traffic.

The Minister said that all applications were carefully assessed to take account of any environmental or heritage impact, as well as wider planning considerations. And he stressed that private developments were also subject to a 21-day consultation period during which members of the public could review applications and lodge objections that would later be considered by the Development and Planning Commission.

A general overview was taken of the various projects currently under assessment, but each application was also viewed on its own merits, Mr Holliday added.

“We have to recognise that land is a scarce commodity in Gibraltar,” he told the Chronicle.

“That means buildings might be higher in the future, but this must be handled sensitively.”

The government’s development plan, which aims to build on an existing one dating back to the early 1990s, will set out official policy on everything from the height of buildings to details of what is permissible on a building’s façade.

The criteria will vary depending on where in Gibraltar the development is taking
place, with the tightest restrictions on projects within the city walls.

The Minister added that the development plan would be opened to wide public consultation once the final draft is completed.


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