Guidance for protecting Gibraltar’s heritage issued to developers
The Gibraltar Government has issued guidance notes to assist planners and developers to protect Gibraltar’s heritage when preparing projects.
The guidance, welcomed by the Minister for Heritage, Dr John Cortes, calls on developers and planners to seek advice.
“Heritage is not a barrier to change,” Dr Cortes said.
“Safeguarding our cultural heritage does not mean preventing development or sustainable change. It means managing that change in order to retain and protect significant heritage places, sites or objects, which are important to our community.”
The guidance came with a key message to all potential applicants to include cultural heritage in the initial stages of their plans.
“It is important at the outset of any development project – in the early stages of project planning, due diligence and risk management – to include cultural heritage,” the Government said.
“And, to seek advice at the earliest opportunity.”
The Cultural Heritage Town Planning Guidance was prepared by the Department of Town Planning and Building Control, the Gibraltar National Museum, the World Heritage Office and the Ministry for Heritage.
When applications are filed for consideration by the Development and Planning Commission, it will take account of the desirability of sustaining and enhancing the significance of heritage assets and putting them to viable uses consistent with their conservation.
The positive contribution that conservation of heritage assets can make to sustainable communities includes economic vitality and the new development making a positive contribution to local character and distinctiveness.
“Gibraltar has a rich and unique heritage; some of it is of international significance, as recognition by UNESCO of our World Heritage Site shows. Heritage can help us understand where we have come from, where we are going, and why we do things in the way that we do. Heritage touches all our lives,” the Government said.
“Safeguarding our cultural heritage is an important part of the legislation and planning process. The physical assets – whether buildings, monuments or archaeological remains - are a material consideration in determining planning applications. Hence, it is important to note that in determining planning applications.”
The Government statement explained that the Guidance Notes are aimed as answering frequently asked questions such as: Why does cultural heritage matter? How do I find out whether there are cultural heritage assets I need to consider? How do I find out if a building or monument is scheduled? Can I make changes to a scheduled building or monument? What information will I be required to provide? Or, who can carry out the work?
Applicants will frequently need to provide information with any planning applications on its implications for cultural heritage.
The precise requirements for cultural heritage will be determined by the Ministry for Heritage as advised by the Government Archaeologist, the National Museum, Gibraltar World Heritage Office and other experts.
Leader of Together Gibraltar, Marlene Hassan Nahon, said although at first glance the guidance is a “good idea”, ensuring this legislation is adhered to should be independent.
“At first glance, increasing the burden on building projects to consider and safeguard our heritage is an obviously good idea, unfortunately we find ourselves, like on most occasions, incapable of taking the Government's intentions at face value,” Ms Hassan Nahon said.
“The problem in Gibraltar is not one of rules or legislation.”
“Most of the time the rules are there, with legislation that is often inspired (or directly imported) by tried and tested models at the vanguard of policymaking.”
“The problem in Gibraltar is always implementation, with regulators that are under resourced, watchdogs that are not independent, and institutions that are heavily politicised.”
“If the DPC is going to be in charge of ensuring that these rules are adhered to, then we believe these will often bend to the political will of the day.”
“What Gibraltar needs is a decided, courageous attempt to create independent oversight to all areas of Government, town planning included. This means we must strengthen our institutions so they can be truly independent.”
“Making sure they have all the tools they need to keep decisions in the hands of experts, not meddling ministers. We should enforce strict reporting on how each department is supporting the public good and open them up to third-party auditors to ensure they are meeting their aims and free of ministerial interference.”
The GSD reserved comment until they have reviewed all the guidance notes.
The guidance notes and further information may be found at: www.gibraltar.gov.gi/town-planning/planning-guidance, www.ministryforheritage.gi/town-planning, and www.gorhamscave.gi/gorhams-cave-complex/downloads