July 30, 2018
July 2018 has witnessed the passing of some important pieces of legislation in relation to properties and property development in Gibraltar.
The Town Planning Act 2018 was passed on July 25th by the Gibraltar Parliament and the Gibraltar Heritage and Antiquities Act 2018 was passed in the same session. Both these pieces of legislation have a bearing on the protection of buildings and of features of the built environment that are of historic significance.
The Town Planning Act 2018 strengthens and modernises the provisions of the existing planning legislation of 1999. It focuses primarily on the control of development, especially on the role of the Development and Planning Commission, with clear definitions on what work constitutes ‘development’ and requires permission under this section. The legislation also contains details of offences of carrying out a development without permission as well as of failing to comply with or contravening any conditions placed upon the granting of the planning permission.
The new Act amends the way that applications are publicised, providing very clear, step by step procedures to applicants. One important change is that persons who are owners, or who have a legal interest or tenancy of the land in relation to the proposed development, are to be given notice of 21 working days in which to inspect a proposed application and make representation to the DPC. This will eliminate the practice of some developers of issuing notices just prior to a public holiday, which had the effect of limiting the time in which the relevant persons could respond to the application. This provision ensures that developers give notice to all persons that are affected by the development and not, as has been the practice in the past, only give notice to head lessors, who then might or might not have alerted owners or tenants accordingly.
The Gibraltar Heritage and Antiquities Act 2018 also has a significant impact on preparations and plans by property developers considering work on buildings or in areas where there are buildings with features that are of importance to Gibraltar’s heritage. Having taken 18 years to prepare and draft through the concerted efforts of many past and present Trustees, law drafters, successive Ministers for Heritage, members of the Trust and the general public, the legislation was finally passed unanimously in Parliament, much to the delight of the Gibraltar Heritage Trust.
The Act specifies the buildings and areas that fall under its protection and allows for other buildings to be nominated and assessed for protection in the future, so that the Act’s protection can be extended further through Gibraltar’s historic urban environment.
A spokesperson for the Gibraltar Heritage Trust commented: “Of significance is that the ‘Town Planning Act’ was also passed during the same Parliamentary session. This Act is crucial to the planning and management of our built environment and integral to the protection of the built heritage environment. Together, both the ‘Gibraltar Heritage and Antiquities Act’ and the ‘Town Planning Act’ will be indispensable tools in the management of Gibraltar’s physical and intangible heritage and mark the opening of a new chapter in the Rock’s record of heritage protection.”
While it is highly unlikely that either of these pieces of legislation will diminish property developers’ impetus for new construction and for property refurbishment, greater emphasis will have to be given to achieving the right balance between financial viability and the application of a more thorough public consultation process and the protection of Gibraltar’s urban heritage.