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Action for Housing urges ‘ambitious’ regeneration plan for Upper Town, asks questions on Road to the Lines

Action for Housing has urged the Gibraltar Government to be “more ambitious” with it plans for regeneration of the Upper Town.

The group was reacting after the government invited bids for the development of individual properties on Road to the Lines after plans for the wholesale redevelopment of the site fell through because no suitable bids were received.

Action for Housing had initially welcomed that plans although it had doubts as to whether any private developer would see it as profitable given the difficult access to the site and the conditions set by the government, which included 100 rental flats and commercial units,

It said at the time it would have preferred the government to develop the area for rental accommodation.

“When we have in the past been critical of the Government for having allowed the upper town to fall into a state of urban decay, the Government’s reply has been to say that they are committed to a policy of urban regeneration, and give examples of this policy by pointing out to the conversion of the old St Bernard’s Hospital into two schools and the private development of the old Police Barracks, which transformed the area beyond recognition,” the group said in a statement.

“We agree that these two projects went a long way to regenerate very badly neglected areas, but Government cannot for ever rest on these success stories to justify neglect elsewhere.”

“The overall pace of the upper town regeneration programme is too slow. We need a more ambitious and well planned holistic one that will yield results in a shorter period of time.”

Action for Housing said it was ‘cautiously pleased” that the Government had decided to re-orientate its strategy of urban renewal in this area.

But it said the new project raised a number of questions, including whether individual home buyers who are on the housing waiting Lists would be given preferences over private developers who will in the end put in their bids to make a profit.

“We would also like to know if, any building purchased by a private developer to convert the same into individual flats, will then have the rents levied on the flats ‘controlled in law’ as was the case when this area was first put out for regeneration,” the group said.

“Because of the number of developers involved in it, each working at a different pace could also prolong the entire development.”

“We also wonder that if experienced developers could not, or did not want to embark on this project, whether less experienced developers would.”

“Ultimately we wonder who will benefit from this development.”

“Will it be those who are in need of a home, like for example those on Government’s waiting lists? Will they be able to apply for these properties?”

“Will their circumstances be given consideration in the bids they ‘might’ submit?”

“Or will these properties only be for developers with the funding to make a ‘bid’ and meet the construction costs to develop the ‘property’ and then be able to sell or rent the finished product to the highest bidder, and in so doing further reduce Government’s housing stock for current as well as future Government applicants and would be tenants?”

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