There is no master plan or design code when it comes to construction at Devil’s Tower Road and Gibraltar more widely. Failing to plan is planning to fail.
The absence of an up to date Development plan from a Government that used in opposition to complain about a concrete jungle means that we are now, precisely, being subjected to a massive concrete jungle. This is unacceptable. The Government should have done their homework in advance, in order to have had the new plan in place by 2019.
The position is particularly challenging when it comes to Devil’s Tower Road where the Planning Commission have complained about having to consider applications for increasingly tall buildings with no overarching guidance.
The pace of construction over the last few years in Devil’s Tower Road has brought into sharp focus the fact that the 2009 plan is totally outdated and therefore of little use as a guidance on development matters.
The ESG is right when they describe what is happening as “opportunistic building”. The Heritage Trust are also right to question what is driving this surge of development saying that the pendulum has swung in the direction of no restriction on height.
In many respects the opportunity to have a holistic plan for Devil’s Tower Road has been lost given the pace at which development has proceeded very recently, with a focus, it seems, on maximisation of profits for developers. The social costs of this over-development are born solely by the public.
Mass construction is blighting the view of our iconic Rock and exacerbates the wind tunnel effect along Devil’s Tower Road. Moreover, architecture that does not respect our local character and heritage ultimately dilutes Gibraltar’s unique urban fabric. The architecture of ‘anywhere’ is the architecture of ‘nowhere.’ The Government is turning Gibraltar into a facsimile of Benidorm.
The Government should have, as a matter of priority, commissioned a bespoke master plan and design code for Devil’s Tower Road, before the wild west speculative building frenzy commenced. The horse has already bolted, but a plan which takes account of issues such as the social costs of such massive development, transport services, traffic management, the need for new schools, etc., which have clearly not been taken into consideration to date should now be commissioned without further delay. This is the least they can do.
Damon Bossino, the shadow Minister for Planning said: “If the East side development and Devil’s Tower Road had been planned as a new town, all the amenities a new town would require could have been factored in at the beginning, not as an after-thought, in an ad hoc and piecemeal fashion. Consequently, we are fast being lumbered with a characterless suburban sprawl, with all the attendant urban planning problems this will bring in the future. A dreadful legacy.”