Heritage Trust ‘has been let down’ says chairman
Chairman of the Gibraltar Heritage Trust Ian Balestrino has said the Trust “has been let down” at the way in which Government has handled the art installation on the northern façade of the Ince’s Hall Theatre and the start of the street art/graffiti urban regeneration programme.
Although it remains opposed to the Ince’s Hall façade forming part of this because it feels “this was not the right building to start this new concept for Gibraltar” it would not be opposed to the project overall, he insisted.
Following a clash between the Heritage and the Government last week at the way in which the programme had been “rushed” it sought to clarify its position at a press conference on Friday and how it first heard about this project.
Mr Balestrino reiterated the Trust did not object to such artwork but did object to its location and to the total disregard for the consultation process within the Development and Planning Commission.
“Although it is a tried and successful aspect, urban renewal does not just mean painting murals on facades,” he said whilst recognizing that this end of Main Street was progressively being improved and made more attractive.
“We have the restoration of the Gibraltar International Bank and more recently the new offices for Price Waterhouse Coopers,” he said.
Flanked by vice chairman, Dr Keith Farrell, and chief executive Claire Montado, Mr Balestrino insisted their needed to be consultation and the Trust would have been prepared to present alternative sites for this street art project.
“It is not that we don’t want street art. There are appropriate sites but we did not get the chance to have our input,” he said.
He pointed out that the main function of the Trust is to advise Government on heritage matters but to be able to do this the Trust needed to be informed in order to give its position.
He said the planning process still needed fine tuning pointing the existing Town Planning Act allowed Government to have exemption to DPC ruling.
“They are not obliged to follow whatever vote is taken at DPC and on this occasion they have not event had the courtesy of taking it to DPC for open consultation. This is one of the anomalies we face in the current law.”
Mrs Montado said the Trust could not do anything about Ince’s Hall as the works had started but was concerned about what was going to happen to the rest of the building.
“This is one façade and the building is still in need of attention,” she said.
The Trust, she said, would continue to use its voice within the committees and especially Urban Renewal Committee.
The Trust she added would continue to make sure that the planning process was adhered to at every level.
Dr Keith Farrell commented there were a lot of other significant issues which needed to be looked at when came to urban renewal and that it was not just about the façade of buildings or a coat of paint.
In wanting to explain how the Trust had heard about the art installation Mr Balestrino revealed the Trust had first heard about it when informed the Act Chief Minister.
“We respected the privacy of the conversation and wrote in to No.6 formally in the same vein. The concept was tabled at a DPC Sub Committee meeting on Thursday 23 March and a unanimous approval was not reached. Therefore the application would have to be deferred to the next full DPC meeting according to the established procedure,” he said.
But at the full DPC meeting on Tuesday 28 the item was not included in the agenda.
“The Trust was informed that the application had not been ready in time and that it would eventually be sent via round robin. We were assured that the correct planning process was being followed,” he added.
But as it happened on the Tuesday the installation began to take shape at Ince’s Hall. On the Wednesday the Trust strongly objected.
Aside from their letter of objection to the Chief Minister, informed Mr Balestrino, the Trust had also requested a meeting with him but was awaiting a date.