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A touch of glass at Butcher’s latest project

Sitting in front of the Development and Planning Commission yesterday morning, successful property developer Greg Butcher pulled out several glass bottles from a reusable Primark bag to underline a point about his latest project.

The bottles, he told the DPC, were being used as building materials for a development on the site of the old casino on Europa Road.

Shocked members of the audience watched as Mr Butcher informed the DPC that instead of cement or standard construction materials, some of the floors were actually made from “100s and 100s” of glass bottles.

The point was one of many used by Mr Butcher to demonstrate how unsafe the current building is. He also noted that such is the dilapidated state of the building that it has in fact been propped up for 25 years, he said, citing information from the Gibraltar Heritage Trust.

Mr Butcher’s application for the site, to be known as The Reserve, was deferred so that further information could be presented before the DPC takes a decision.

Permission is being sought for demolition of the old casino and the construction of an eight to 12 story residential development across the whole site.

Current plans envisage 111 apartments, 171 car parking spaces and 115 motorbike spaces.

The development will have “extensive on site leisure facilities” and extensive landscaping including green roofs.

In addition, the historic water tanks will be retained, restored and exposed for the public to view. A new public pavement will be created as will a new pedestrian crossing.

The site is what is known as a brownfield site –this means a site with an abandoned industrial property- and has been vacant for 12 years.

In the Development Plan it stipulates that the site must be used for residential purposes and previously planning permission was granted for a 9-11 storey development.

In the Town Planners report concerns surrounding biodiversity were highlighted, this included the loss of habitat and trees and the impact on birds, bats and macaques.

A nesting bird survey has yet to be filed but reports on bats and macaques have been presented to the DPC.

The architect for the project stated that there would be almost 1,000 linear metres of plants within the scheme.

The Department of Environment are asking for further assessments to be carried out on the macaques and that an agreement be reached on compensation measures regarding the loss of habitat.

The Environmental Safety Group also highlighted concerns regarding biodiversity with DPC member Janet Howitt, noting that there was a loss of land so close to the Nature Reserve and there was a lack of a green corridor between the Reserve, Botanic Gardens and Sandpits.

She also mentioned concerns regarding the massing and height of the development and that an artist’s impression of the view of it from Windsor Bridge should be produced.

Mr Butcher said that all the concerns that have been raised were done so previously and have been addressed with the plans for the development changing accordingly.

He feels that the project has such an influence from the various sectors in Gibraltar he noted on many occasions that it was in fact a development that was “shaped by local people with local interests,” and “it was by local people for local people”.

He said as a developer the plans that are before the DPC would not have been what they wished for. However, in a bid to ensure that the project is welcomed as it will be home to many local people he said that despite not knowing the costs for various aspects of the construction, such as the preservation of the water tanks, that he wanted the input of the shareholders.

When pushed on what the price of the apartments would be he was unable to say exactly but said on a par with Ocean Village and Queensway.

Keith Bensusan posed the question as to why it was so high, Mr Butcher said that it was not that much higher than the previously approved scheme but that also due to the unknown costs involved the project has to be somewhat economically viable and this will help this. Should the building be smaller the economic viability would be affected even more so.

Summarising the Town Planner’s recommendations, it was noted that no works can commence until a licence had been granted under the Nature Reserve Regulations, an illumination scheme needs to be filed, a conservation and heritage management plan and a heritage interpretation is prepared.

The pedestrian crossing is relocated to the southern side of the site, an archaeological watching brief forms part of the construction phase and habitat compensation and mitigation of loss of habitat for the Barbary Partridge is carried out.

The developer will return to the DPC at a later date with more information mainly at the request of the Department of Environment.

In addition, the notice of intention to apply for a business licence for the Reserve was gazetted this week. The application states that the location will be the Ocean Village promenade.

The following applications received approval yesterday.

The proposed single storey extension and refurbishment of 2-8 Cornwall’s Lane. The retrospective application for a fence at 6 Lake Ramp, Buena Vista Estate. The proposed renovation of the two existing main blocks and the provision of car parking spaces, roof extensions and the replacement of a small block with a two storey apartment at 73/77 Prince Edwards Road. The third floor enclosure at 6 Shakery’s Passage.

The following projects were deferred. The proposed internal house refurbishment, demolition of external cottage and extension of existing house at Rose Tree Cottage, 8 North Pavilion Road.

The proposed construction of an open pergola over existing car ports at Rosia Plaza.

The DPC made a few comments with regards to the Gibraltar Government’s plans for the Promenade Walkway at Little Bay including allowing for it to be a cycle lane and to have railings rather than a wall which would make it possible for people in a wheelchair or who are short to still see out.

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