March 05, 2018
A corner plot at the junction of Main Street, Engineer’s Lane and Turnbull’s Lane and not in an easy, open site, but these challenges pose no insurmountable obstacles to developers, Gilman Holdings Ltd. The company has filed plans with Gibraltar’s Town Planning department asking for permission to demolish the existing Continental Hotel building and to construct in its place a seven-storey block for 22 apartments.
Although the plans have not yet been deliberated by the Development and Planning Commission, the developers appear confident that permission will be granted to build those seven storeys. This is despite the fact that there is usually a limit of five storeys for structures within the City Walls. Gibraltar’s current Development Plan for the Old Town states within its guidelines that developers should pay attention to the height of buildings in the vicinity of the proposed development. However, in certain cases a taller building may be justified, particularly at a focal point such as a corner plot.
Gibraltar’s planning authority, like so many other authorities in cities across the world, faces the challenge of balancing heritage objectives with economic needs and commercial reality. Officials have to try to preserve and protect the existing architectural features that provide character, charm and definition to old towns like Gibraltar, with the commercial requirements of landlords and investors, who need to ensure that their developments are financially viable. In addition to this there are social realities to consider: the need for housing in order to meet social needs of the local community and to provide accommodation for essential staff for local employers.
The building planned for this Main Street corner plot will have 22 apartments each with their own balcony. There will be six two-bedroom apartments; six that will have one bedroom and the remaining 10 units will be studio flats. In the development’s application, the developers express their conviction that the building will be in keeping with the existing buildings, especially as the two top floors – those above the usual limit of five storeys – are designed to be set back from the building line. They believe the proposed building will sit comfortably within the street scene.