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Govt sets out new timeframe for delayed affordable housing schemes

Photo by Johnny Bugeja.

Gibraltar’s proposed affordable housing schemes have been impacted by “unavoidable delays” caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Gibraltar Government said, as it set out a new timeline on when these projects will be completed.

According to the Government, Phase One of Hassan Centenary Terraces is expected to be completed by July 2023.

Phase two of this estate will begin once the rubble on the Eastside is removed, which is expected to take six months, and it may take up to another two years before these buildings are completed.

Meanwhile it could take another three to four years for building works to be completed to Bob Peliza Mews and Chatham Views Estate.

“In providing this update, the Government recognises that there are inevitable delays arising from the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic and that these are having a negative effect on those who need or want these homes as soon possible,” the Government said in a statement.

Minister for Housing, Steven Linares, said: “We are progressing as quickly as we can on the building of these affordable homes.”

“We know how important they are.”

“We do nonetheless have to accept the reality that the Covid-19 pandemic has delayed us in a way that was completely unavoidable.”

This is not a party political issue.”

“The Government wants these estates completed as quickly as possible.”

“Whatever our political opponents may wish to pretend, there was just no viable way to move more quickly on these projects.”

Mr Linares said the Government will “continue to do its best” at every level, both in relation to the demolitions, rubble movement, ground works, planning and every other aspect, in order to be able to complete these projects as soon as possible.

“It would be unfair to pretend we can progress sooner than we are saying today and we want to be as clear as possible with the purchasers,” Mr Linares added.

“We are also very keen to have the pensioner flats that we are developing as part of these estates, as they will also enable us to move elderly tenants to small flats that will allow government rental homes to be available for the growing families that need them.”

HASSAN CENTENARY TERRACES

Hassan Centenary Terraces is being built in two phases and will deliver a total of 665 affordable homes.
The Gibraltar Government told this newspaper last year that phase one, which includes blocks four, five and six, will be completed in “early 2023”.

But it is now envisaged to be completed by July 2023.

“The three blocks being built as part of the Phase One of Hassan Centenary Terraces are progressing very well, despite construction work having started shortly before the Covid pandemic struck Gibraltar,” a statement from No.6 Convent Place said.

As for phase two, work on the removal of the rubble will start in two weeks’ time and is estimated to take six months to be completed, the Government said.

“The removal will be done in stages to allow construction of the three blocks forming part of the second phase to also proceed in stages, without having to wait for the removal of the full amount before starting,” the statement said.

“Work is also commencing, as a result of the agreement with the TNG Global Foundation, on the coastal protection works required to protect the Eastside Reclamation and the area of it where the affordable homes are being developed.”

Phase Two, which includes blocks one, two and three is now expected to be completed within 20 to 24 months of the completion of Phase One, the Government spokesman added.

BOB PELIZA MEWS

Bob Peliza Mews, will provide a total of 399 homes, plus 83 flats for the elderly, and will be split into two phases.
“The key aspect that has held progress back is the hand over by the Gibraltar Electricity Authority of the Waterport Power Station,” the Gibraltar Government said.

“This has been dependent on the new North Mole Power Station coming into operation and the GEA fully migrating from Waterport to its new facility.”

“The GEA finally handed over the keys to Waterport Power Station on November 1, 2021, after having completed vacating the premises following the decommissioning stage.”

“This will now allow the process of assessing the demolition requirements to commence using Engineering Consultants appointed by the Government of Gibraltar.”

The Government spokesman said this will not be a typical demolition project as there are numerous specialist areas forming part of this facility which need to be tackled including fuel tanks.

There will also be a need to investigate the ground conditions within the site to determine whether any ground remediation is necessary before the housing project can commence, the spokesman added.

The works to completely demolish the old power station and clear the site is anticipated to take at least 10 months.

Construction of Phase One of Bob Peliza Mews will thus be able to commence as from approximately October 2022.

Phase One will consist of blocks one, two and three and is expected to take approximately 24 months to complete, the Government said.

It added that the relocation of the AquaGib facility on the eastern half of the site is also a key element to allowing the second phase of this housing project to proceed and this is now at design stage.

It is anticipated that the relocation process of this facility will take approximately 20 months in total and works on Phase Two will consist of blocks four, five and six which are the blocks in the area of the AquaGib facility.

Phase Two is anticipated to be commenced immediately upon the completion of the relocation of the AquaGib facility and to take approximately 22 months to complete, the Government spokesman said.

“The 482 affordable homes and pensioner flats at Bob Peliza Mews are now realistically expected to start to be completed within, approximately, 34 to 42 months,” the spokesman added.

CHATHAM VIEWS ESTATE

At Chatham Views Estate a total of 184 affordable homes and an additional 44 flats for rental for the elderly, will be delivered.

“The first stage of the construction of Chatham Views involves the demolition of the ex-Westside School premises to clear the site,” the Government said.

“This has been delayed due to the need to vacate all the existing residents of the Westside Mews building, a process which is now almost complete pending the resolution of the relocation of one owner occupier still in occupation.”
“Demolition can now be contracted.”

“There will also be a need to deal with the rubble that will be generated by this demolition which cannot go to the Eastside rubble tip, as the latter was closed due to it having reached capacity in January 2021.”

“This rubble will therefore be deposited at Coaling Island reclamation after processing as soon as the removal of the rubble from the second phase of the Hassan Centenary Terraces site is completed.”

“The 228 affordable homes and pensioner flats at Chatham Views Estate are now realistically expected to start to be completed within the next approximately 36 to 40 months.”

The Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, said: “It is clear that these projects have suffered inevitable delays which are outside of our control.”

“I want to assure every single purchaser in these developments that we are moving as fast as possible.”

“We are a government of the people and it is clear to us, and we totally get, that these homes are as desired as they are needed by the purchasers.”

“I therefore want to assure everyone that we will not suffer one day’s delay that can be avoided.”

“The underlying reality is that, whether we like it or not, the pandemic has really knocked our ability to proceed with these projects any quicker for reasons which are beyond the party political and which relate directly to the effects Covid.”

“This is not a delay which arises from our management of the projects in any way, shape or form, and I want to make that clear to people as we explain these delays.”

“The knock-on effects of the pandemic have been huge and we must face that reality without pretending otherwise.”
“We are working very, very hard to get the projects delivered as soon as is viably possible, and in a manner that ensures that the quality of the finished product we deliver is not in any way negatively affected.”

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