Wine Vaults receive full planning permission
Balancing heritage value with commercial gain was the task facing all ten members of the Development and Planning Commission as they discussed the Gibraltar Wine Vault project during a meeting last week.
Applicant Tracy Lee, CEO and Founder of Gibraltar Wine Vaults, received full planning permission for her project, which will see the creation of a of a wine vault in some of the tunnels within the Rock.
However, members of the DPC acknowledged they had a tough task in deciding because Ms Lee sought permission to demolish ‘Pearce’s Hump’ and some blast walls, both of which are part of the military defences built to protect the Rock against German invasion during World War II.
“The Heritage Trust has been very open in its representations and we cannot agree to the removal of these items and they are an integral part of the defences system. Notwithstanding that the whole project is an amazing project,” said Claire Montado, CEO of the Gibraltar Heritage Trust.
“Really from a heritage point of view and purely a heritage conservation stand point we cannot agree to this, but we cannot dismiss the wider positive heritage aspects that will come out of the project, so it is a lot of balancing,” she added.
“It is clear if they are not removed they will impact on the operational requirements,” said the Deputy Town Planner, Paul Naughton Rumbo.
“Like many planning decisions it is about balancing the needs of the operation and investment in Gibraltar compared to the heritage value of these specific features,” he added, while also asking the members to keep in mind that there are other structural features with a heritage value that are being retained.
Regarding the removal of Pearce’s Hump, Mr Naughton Rumbo told the DPC that the plans include “on the sides of the chamber an indication of at least where that ramp used to be, so there can be an appreciation of what was there.”
On the blast walls, “I recommend that the applicant at least leaves some kind of mark or indentation on the surface which would indicate at the very least what used to be there,” said the Deputy Town Planner.
Disabled access also featured in the discussion with Ms Lee stating that most of the area accessible to the public will have access for people with mobility issues.
The Deputy Town Planner also noted that while some of the tunnels within the project are not listed for heritage purposes it does not make them “any less valuable, it just means that there are quite a few heritage assets in Gibraltar which are currently not listed and still none the less have a value.”
He told the DPC members that they “just have to take a view on the value of the heritage of those assets against what the project would produce for Gibraltar.”
Mrs Montado was not the only one to express the fact they had to calculate the value of a one assets against another, the majority of members did this as part of their decision making process.
Eight members voted in favour of the project.
Permission was also granted for a three storey visitor centre, a protective canopy linking the visitors centre with the face of the rock and the refurbishment of part of the existing underground vaults and tunnels for commercial purposes.