The decision to demolish, to provide only 23 temporary parking spaces would see the demolition of a historic façade for little planning gain. In fact, the Government has only just announced a temporary freeze on development on this site, which it had previously earmarked for a theatre. This means that sooner or later they will likely allow commercial development on the site.
Those decisions followed quickly after the announcement by the GSLP Government that it was abandoning theQueen’s Cinema site as the location of the National Theatre that it announced to great fanfare before the last election.
Quite apart from this being another broken promise of the GSLP it is obvious that the site is potentially identified for commercial and mixed use development in the future. People are just not being told when and who would be the preferred developer who may be in negotiations with Government.
On 6 May 2013 and to great fanfare the Government announced it had bought the Queen’s Cinema site for £3.5Million. It declared then that it would convert this into a National Theatre and that this work was going to be ledby a team of “local specialists set up by the Chief Minister who will chair it.” At the time Mr Picardo was quoted as saying that this was proof that “the change people voted for is starting to bear fruit.” Gibraltar was promisedthat the new Theatre would be open for “its first performance and inauguration in 2015.”
In June 2014 the Government were reported to have purchased the remaining lease on the Queen’s Hotel for an undisclosed sum. The expense to the taxpayer on both acquisitions has been in the millions of pounds.
Even though they had failed to lay one brick towards the promised National Theatre by 2015 the GSLP repeated the commitment in its 2015 manifesto.
By 2017 it was unceremoniously repositioning itself to ditch the Theatre proposal. The Government said in October 2017 that it had been approached by developers on an “unsolicited basis” to develop the Queen’s Cinema and Queen’s Hotel sites. By October 2017 it was inviting expressions of interest for a mixed use scheme. Their latest announcement that it was formally abandoning the manifesto commitment it had made was long in the making but clear for all to see.
In doing do it will destroy a historic façade all for 23 temporary spaces, and then to eventually allow mixed use development. That history will not be able to be recovered once lost.
GSD Leader Keith Azopardi said:
“I can confirm that if we are elected to Government at the next elections, we will make sure that the Queen’sCinema site, that has long been used as a cultural venue for this community, is saved for Arts & Culture. We will retain the historic façade of the Queen’s Cinema and refurbish the building so that it can continue to be used for cultural purposes and can host musical events, theatre, conference centre and multi-use facilities for the Arts. We will not allow commercial development on the Queen’s Cinema site.
At the next election people need to be clear about what the options of different parties are for this site. This announcement today sets out our clear intentions on the site. All the Government have announced so far is the negative policy of demolition for a few parking spaces and a temporary freeze on development.
We will protect our heritage and culture. In Government this will be systematic and inform all our policies to ensure a more sustainable approach to our environment.
We are potentially weeks away from an election. As such the present Government should not proceed with anydemolition at the Queen’s Cinema site until people have chosen who should form the next Government.”