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DPC defers new cable car proposals amid concerns about visitor impact

The Development and Planning Commission deferred the application for the proposed demolition of the existing cable car installation and the creation of a new one yesterday, amid concerns as to how a hike in visitors to the Upper Rock Nature Reserve will be managed.

The applicant, MH Bland, was seeking permission to demolish the upper and lower Cable Car stations and its three intermediate towers, to replace them with new station buildings, two intermediate towers and a new cable car system.

Both the applicant and an objector addressed the DPC.

The applicant is seeking permission to create a larger lower cable car station that will provide shelter for visitors purchasing tickets and queuing, a disability-friendly platform where people will board the cable car, staff and storage areas.

It will also have photovoltaic panels that will produce approximately 20% of the electricity required to run the building.

However, the expansion will also result in the loss of 22 car parking spaces in Grand Parade.

The upper cable car station will be created over five levels and will be multi-faceted, with landscaping and the means to harvest rainwater.

It will have facilities that include a coffee shop, event spaces, embarkation areas, viewing balconies, a bar, a restaurant and toilets.

The event space can cater for larger events, be it corporate or weddings.

This station will also be disability-friendly and there will be access and viewpoint of the monkey feeding stations.

The cable cars have been described as energy efficient by the developer who said they are ten times more energy efficient than cars.

MH Bland stated the need for expansion arises from the increasing numbers of tourists who come to Gibraltar and the need to future proof further increases.

The proposed cable car will increase the number of people in each car from 30 to 80.

The Gibraltar Taxi Association is objecting to the application based mainly on its concern regarding how the increase of people in the Upper Rock Nature Reserve will be managed.

Hassans represented the association, and through partner Daniel Feetham conveyed the GTA’s concerns regarding the impact the development would have on the environment.

One concern for the environment stems from the increase in size of the stations and that the towers will be wider than the existing towers and will therefore affect “virgin territory in the nature reserve.”

Mr Feetham flagged how the development plan states that permission would only be granted if there was no significant effect on the protected area.

But the association believes that the increased of tourists from an estimated 400,000 to 600,000 a year is significant and would have an impact on the area.

The taxi drivers are concerned that the increase in people will negatively affect the macaques and other species such as the Barbary Partridge, as well as potentially increase the amount of litter.

Mr Feetham said applying for planning permission without having a visitor management plan is “putting the cart before the horse.”

The Gibraltar Taxi Association’s members were not the only ones to express concern on the management of people, with a number of DPC members echoing this worry.

In reply to these concerns and why a management plan was not produced alongside the application, the applicant explained that it would not be the norm to produce such a plan or other plans until approval was gained.

The DPC agreed that it was not a requirement but still suggested that it might have been prudent if it had been produced in advance.

The Town Planner recommended approval with some conditions.

However, given the concerns some members expressed regarding the visitor management plan, the application was deferred rather than refused.

It is now up to the applicant to produce the plan and submit it to the Town Planner.

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