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Opposition questions ‘surreptitious’ Upper Rock ban on foreign cars

Foreign cars have been banned from entering the Upper Rock Nature Reserve on environmental grounds, it was revealed yesterday.

The move only came to light after the GSD questioned the decision and accused the Gibraltar Government of introducing the measure ‘unexpectedly, unannounced and surreptitiously’.

The Opposition called on the Gibraltar Government to explain why it had been ‘so shy’ about explaining the restriction on foreign-licensed vehicles entering the reserve, a move it described as ‘a radical policy shift’.

But the government insisted this was part of a holistic plan for the future of the Upper Rock and in line with other policies including re-branding the tourist product and introducing new attractions.

It said there was a need to address logistical challenges on the reserve’s narrow roads, including crowd control and access for emergency vehicles.

In assessing the move, the GSD said taxis, coaches and the cable car operator would clearly benefit from the decision.

But it questioned whether the impact of the ban on tourist numbers had been properly considered by the Gibraltar Government.

It also asked who had been consulted prior to the move being implemented.

“I’m interested to learn what influenced Government to make this radical move which is likely to have an immediate negative impact on the tourist experience and potentially have the effect of further congesting traffic and parking in and around town,” said GSD tourism spokesman Lawrence Llamas.

The Gibraltar Government insisted that tighter regulations on how tourists can enter the Upper Rock would improve the overall tourist experience and help tourism managers.

It said less congestion and a significant reduction in emissions would create a better experience for visitors to the Upper Rock, whilst restricting access also gave greater control over how visitors were able to move around the nature reserve and access major attractions.

It said this would become increasingly important with tourist numbers expected to reach record levels this year on the back of rising cruise calls and passenger flights.

“The Government has made this decision as part of our wider policy of environmentally sustainable tourism in the Upper Rock Nature Reserve,” said Samantha Sacramento, the Minister for Tourism. “The Upper Rock is not just a product that is for sale that can be exploited without thinking of the long-term impacts that this might have.”

“We also have to think about the type of tourist product that we want to offer, and the natural environment is an extremely important, attractive part of it.”

“Neither tourists nor locals visiting the Upper Rock want to encounter congestion, pollution and disorganised crowds.”

“The projected increase in tourist numbers for this year means that the Government has had to do a lot of strategic forward-planning to meet the new logistical challenges brought by this.”

“The result of this holistic policy will be a markedly improved Upper Rock experience for everyone to enjoy for years to come.”

Photo by David Parody