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GSD questions Govt’s green plans for Queensway, sparking fierce exchange

Johnny Bugeja

Plans to turn the ex-Romney Huts parking on Queensway into a green area “make no sense” against the backdrop of Covid-19 and Brexit, the GSD said this week, as it attacked the Gibraltar Government’s proposal to develop a park along this stretch of road.

The plan to develop the site would mean the loss of 84 car parking spaces and additional motorcycle bays, the GSD said.

It would lead to the loss of mature eucalyptus trees lining Queensway, the party claimed.

But the attack drew a tough response from the Gibraltar Government, which accused the GSD of opposing green policies and “trying to drum up populism of the worst sort”.

The Government said it was making provision for parking and cycle lanes as part of the Queensway scheme, and that no mature trees would be lost.

The exchange was initiated by a GSD statement issued on Tuesday in which the party voiced deep concern about this project, which it said was “deeply contradictory” and would make the traffic situation worse.

“How is it consistent with a green Gibraltar to remove eucalyptus trees which have been there for decades?” Keith Azopardi, the Leader of the Opposition, said.

“Secondly where are these parking spaces going to be re-provided?”

“We have already seen the loss of significant areas of parking on Queensway. This will just compound the traffic issue.”

“It would make sense to ensure a reprovision before any steps are taken otherwise further traffic issues will be caused.”

Mr Azopardi said the Government cannot rely on public transport as a solution at a time when people are being discouraged from using the service in order to maintain Covid-19 social distancing protocols.

He also questioned the economic sense for this project at a time when the public purse was under great strain.

“Government needs to be far more prudent, prioritise and reduce public spending on projects that can wait for a better financial day,” he said.

Shadow Environment Minister Elliott Phillips added that projects such as the one proposed by the Government can only work if they are “well-planned and part of an integrated green strategy”.

“The fiasco of bad planning at Line Wall Road should have showed the Government something,” he said.

“They are just setting themselves up for further public discontent because of their haphazard transport and environmental policy.”

GOVT REACTION

In responding to the GSD, the Gibraltar Government said the party’s condemnation of the loss of “a few” trees was “an utter joke” given the scheme envisaged the planting of 31 new trees.

It said the GSD’s stance signalled opposition to the greening of Gibraltar to promote health and wellbeing.

“The GSD are unashamedly joining the ranks of the climate sceptics and showing the lie of their past, clearly insincere rantings on air quality,” No.6 Convent Place said in a statement.

“While the Government is proceeding with the green agenda which was massively backed by the people at last year’s general election, by a factor of more than double the meagre support garnered by the GSD, the GSD are now even turning away from all their clearly insincere environmental language at the time.”

The Government said too that the GSD’s claims that mature eucalyptus trees would be removed was wrong and that all large specimens would be retained.

Two small Eucalyptus trees in poor condition will make way for many additional trees, while the pepper trees will all be transplanted to other locations around Gibraltar, No.6 said.

There will, as a result, be a net increase of 29 trees in Gibraltar following completion of

the project, it added.

“While it is true that some parking will make way for this green area, Government emphasises again the need to review our use of cars, and reminds the GSD that they had similar criticisms of Commonwealth Park when it was being planned,” No.6 said in the statement.

“Now everyone can see what an indisputable asset our Commonwealth Park has become for the whole of the community, despite the GSD being against it from the word go.”

The Government said it had a duty and responsibility to look beyond Covid-19 and Brexit, and to deploy resources to continuing improvements that would support the recovery of the community from the point of view of health and wellbeing.

It said for those reasons, investment in projects of this type was “totally” justified.

It added that no matter the challenges facing Gibraltar, the GSLP/Liberals would not neglect the importance of greening Gibraltar and the community’s responsibilities to combating climate change and improving air quality.

“Clearly, Gibraltar is the only place in the world where blue and yellow do not make green,” said the Minister for the Environment, Dr John Cortes.

“I never thought I’d miss Trevor Hammond in the GSD. At least he stood, in his own confused way, for what he believed to be environmental ideals.”

“The GSD today has lost them all.”

“But then, that is hardly surprising given that it has clearly lost its sense of environmental direction, choosing instead a ‘Trumpian’ path, best exemplified by the fact that its election candidates have been supporting the Trump, climate change denying, Paris Accords-abandoning, election campaign.”

“Although I should perhaps have seen this coming, I must say I am genuinely disappointed with Keith Azopardi.”

“I had thought he cared about the environment. He clearly only cares about trying to scrounge votes here and there.”

“The People will see through that. They always do.”

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