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GSD says ‘substantial delay’ with affordable housing schemes signals Govt ‘incompetence and mismanagement’

The GSD on Tuesday night said the “record needs to be set straight” with regard to delays in the delivery of the affordable housing projects, describing the current situation as a “dog’s dinner of incompetence and mismanagement”.

The Government cannot be allowed to rely on Brexit and Covid in order to absolve itself from responsibility in this area, the Opposition said, as it criticised delays to Hassan Centenary Terraces, Chatham Views and Bob Peliza Mews.

The statement from the GSD is the latest development following a tense debate in Parliament last week when the Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, announced that he had written to all purchasers of Bob Peliza Mews and Chatham Views to update them on the current situation with the projects.

In his letter, Mr Picardo acknowledged that the past few years had been difficult and had affected the Government’s ability to make progress in its affordable housing programme.

Purchasers were informed that construction costs had increased significantly since the prices for Bob Peliza Mews and Chatham Views were set but that the Government would honour the original prices for existing purchasers and absorb the increase in the construction costs.

On Tuesday night the GSD said the effects of Brexit and Covid hit Gibraltar in 2016 and 2020 respectively, and that it acknowledged the very serious challenges that these events represented.

“The suggestion by the Government that the GSD seeks to belittle their very significant impact is nothing but a crude attempt at turning the tables away from their own failings,” the GSD said in a statement.

“The facts and chronology tell a different story, however and this is why we continue to hold the Government responsible.”

“The facts are that at the 2015 election, that is, eight years ago, the GSLP/Liberals had already announced the launch of Hassan Centenary Terraces and Bob Peliza Mews, promising to deliver within that term of office.”

“They then repeated the promise in September 2017, this being 15 months after Brexit, and citing completion dates for the first phase of Hassan Centenary Terraces for February 2020 which was of course, a month before the advent of the Covid pandemic.”

“The whole development was scheduled to be completed by the end of 2020 with the first phase of Bob Peliza Mews expected to be completed in June 2021.”

The GSD said that in the run up to the October 2019 election, the Government continued to give the impression that “everything was on track” and that there were no delays to the completion of these developments “by making self-congratulatory announcements” about the number of applications received for Hassan Centenary in February 2019; about the sale of flats at Bob Peliza Mews in June 2019; and then again in July of that year about the sale of flats at Chatham Views, stating, in relation to this development, that it would commence in the last quarter of 2019.

“All of these dates were after Brexit, before Covid and clearly used for electoral gain,” the GSD spokesman said.

“It beggars belief that in January 2020 the Government was still announcing that construction of Hassan Centenary would begin ‘shortly’ when they had previously promised completion of the first phase by February 2020.”

“This last date was, once again, months before Covid hit.”

“With Chatham Views, construction was expected to have started in the last quarter of 2019, again months before Covid.”

The GSD said all the developments are now “the subject of substantial delays to the tune of between three to five years at least”, with phase two of Hassan Centenary requiring a reclamation to be done and clearing issues still to be sorted out in respect of the second phase of Bob Peliza.

Damon Bossino, the Shadow Minister for Housing, said: “The shifting sands regarding completion dates have a huge impact on peoples’ lives, many of whom have had to put them on hold at personal financial and in some cases emotional cost and strain.”

“The plight of these individuals has to be attended to with compassion and flexibility adopted in response to their circumstances.”

“They should not be subjected to a harsh application of the rules such as with regard to the return of deposits if they want to move on with other plans as a result of the delays.”

“That is certainly the approach that the GSD would adopt in Government.”

“The tax payer will also suffer given that, despite original denials by the Chief Minister, the construction cost of Hassan Centenary has for now already exceeded £30M and the costs for Bob Peliza and Chatham are on their own admission expected to come in at significantly higher amounts.”

“This in itself is a further reflection of the incompetent handling of this matter.”

“If all of this were not enough, Phase 1 Hassan Centenary purchasers will also now have to await news as to where the missing 144 spaces will be located given that these will not be available until completion of phase 2 in – it is currently expected - May 2025.”

“The whole episode is a dog’s dinner of incompetence and mismanagement and the Government has to take political responsibility, stop fooling people and deal compassionately with those who are finding themselves in dire circumstances as a result of these significant delays, not of their making.”

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