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DPC clears Forbes 1848 project, despite objections

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The Development and Planning Commission yesterday granted full planning permission to the Forbes 1848 project on Devil’s Tower Road, prompting an angry outburst from an objector who accused its members of making “a mockery” of the process.

The 16-storey multi-use development on the ex-Ready Mix Site was approved following a vote of the 10 DPC members and despite passionate objections from people living in the area.

The Environmental Safety Group’s representative was the only member to vote against the development, while the Ministry of Defence representative abstained. All other members voted in favour.

The project gained outline planning permission last year and some revisions were made before full planning permission was sought.

These revisions included, reconfiguration of car parking spaces, relocation of the access ramp to the car park, increase the size of the gym, reconfigure the 14th floor to create ten studio apartments and two one bedroomed apartments. The result of the reconfiguration of apartments gives the development a boost of eight units, from 63 to 71.

The elevation was similar to the previously submitted scheme, however, details of the exact makeup of the materials and colours to be used have yet to be finalised and approved.

The Town Planner noted that the relocation of the car park entrance gave the frontage a more open character.

Due to the reconfiguration of the apartments the development adheres to the ratio of one car parking space per apartment without including the studio apartments in that calculation. In the outline application it was accepted that the developer would not need to provide parking for the studio apartments.

The results of a wind survey indicated that the development would not have a significant impact on the area.

Regarding daylight and sunlight, studies showed that while the neighbouring homes would be impacted by this and would have reduced lighting and sunshine, it was concluded that it was a reasonable reduction when compared to the reduction caused by developments being allowed elsewhere on the Rock.

Objectors
The development had 10 objectors submit their oppositions to the Town Planner, with one resident addressing the Commission at the meeting speaking on behalf of herself and then on behalf of a fellow resident who could not attend the meeting as planned due to family commitments.

The objector, a resident of Northview Terraces, opened up her argument stating that that side of Devil’s Tower Road is full of low-rise buildings and that Forbes 1848 would be out of place.

She also noted that if the development was to go ahead some apartments would “always be in the shade”.

She expressed concerns about fumes from cars entering bedrooms as the car park was on the same level. The developer stated that the fumes and pollution would be mitigated by means of plants along that side and a mechanical system to remove fumes. The Town Planner also recommended that behind the plants a louvre screen should be placed to mitigate the pollution entering the bedrooms even further.

The objector was concerned that the construction works would cause damage to her home, especially during the initial phases when piling would take place. She noted that when other nearby developments were being erected that her building would shake and cracks appeared in her walls. These cracks have since been fixed, but she states she does not want them to reappear.

“I don’t want to wake up in a pile of rubble, or not at all,” she said regarding this concern.

According to the objector, rock falls are frequent. Technical Services’ assessment gave the probability of rock falls as low but noted that it did was trajectory models prepared.

As the decision of approval was made this objector shouted “be it on your head with someone is injured”, referring to her concerns of rock falls in the area.

She claims that the well-being of existing residents are not been taken into account and said it was “morally outrageous that the little people are being walked on”.

Concerning other objectors she expressed that many have given up because, “they think money talks,” and their concerns would not be listened to.

She also told the Commission that she wants to downsize her home following the death of her husband last year. But she claimed that due to this development, she will not be able to sell it.

Speaking on behalf of the other objector, she told the Commission he was also concerned regarding fumes entering bedrooms, if the sewage system could handle the extra usage and the loss of public car parking spaces especially during the construction phase. Via the objector present, he pleaded, “please reserve one open space.”

Developer
The developer tried to allay any concerns and said that during the construction phase a management plan for car parking would be in place.

He also said they were looking into different construction methods and not driving piles in a bid to mitigate the noise and disruption.

In addition, he noted that no excavation and/or piling equipment and metal /masonry cutting equipment or other noise transmitting plant or machinery would be operated on site before 8am or after 6pm Monday to Friday and before 10 am or after 6pm on a Saturday, never on Sundays or public holidays.

Forbes Car Park
The developer also sought and gained full planning permission for the proposed construction of a platform for car parking at the rear of the site, to be known as Forbes Car Park.

At present there are 38 car parking spaces, the developer was given permission to build a platform over this and create a further 18 spaces. These spaces would be handed back to the Government to be used by the public.

One Commission member stated that they would not want to see the ground floor of the car park being enclosed at a future date, others agreed.

Other projects

Truth
Truth restaurant at West One, Europort Road, were refused retrospective full planning permission for the installation of pergolas and will now have to remove them.

Last year, they obtained permission for moveable glass screens. However, they constructed an enclosed area instead.
The Commission members all agreed that some means on mitigating the impact of wind was needed but that they did not want to start setting a precedent in the area for glass conservatories.

Juice Box
The application for the construction of a nine metre squared single storey kiosk at Eurotowers was refused with five Commission members voting against it, three for and two abstaining.

The applicant addressed the Commission stating that there was a need and a desire in the area for a place where customers can obtain healthy options, especially as it was on the way of the school run, near a gym and office blocks where many young people work.

While various members of the DPC welcomed the idea of a kiosk providing healthy options it was the potential to set a precedent not just there but in other locations around Gibraltar that drove the decision.

In addition, in the past there was a reluctance to add additional structures to the streetscape and cluttering it up visually not necessarily just in terms of movement. It was also felt that this would go against the improvements to the landscape that are ongoing in the area.

The Town Planner recommended refused based on the principal of the structure not on anything else.

Bassasdone
Planning permission was granted to Bassadone Automotive Group for the refurbishment of an existing warehouse building into a car showroom and workshop building with an interpretation centre will be debated at this morning’s meeting.

This followed on from outline planning permission granted in August 2017.

Harley Davidson Club
The Harley Davidson Club full planning permission for the construction of a single storey garage at the retrenchment block in Lathbury Barracks was refused unanimously.

Commission members stated it would not be in keeping with the elegant look of the area, once it is cleaned up and that work has been undertaken over the past few years to remove additional structures like this to the area and while the 18th century wall is not listed it does have heritage value and that needed to be taken into consideration.