A planning application for a 1,100 seater Lathbury Barracks sports facility received backing from town planners, subject to recommendations.
The Government project, which does not need planning permission, was discussed at yesterday’s meeting of the Development and Planning Commission.
The facility will accommodate an Olympic size indoor swimming pool, athletics track and field and will primarily be used for competitors and training for swimming and athletics.
Its secondary uses will be for football and rugby training and non-international matches.
The Town Planner said that the “proposed development generally compliant with planning policy” but had some recommendations. These included providing details of air conditioning units and other plant to be submitted before installation, brown roof planting of a native species, a landscaping plan is filed which should include additional green areas.
Façade treatments for the boundary walls and the entire buildings blend in with the limestone cliffs and retrenchment block are submitted to the Town Planner. The production of a noise management strategy to ensure noise limits for children are not exceeded.
Design all outdoor footpaths and parking with a permeable surface. A traffic management plan for all major events is produced in conjunction with relevant authorities.
On the filed application, the Town Planner said the facility will provide “a much needed and flexible sports and leisure facility” and made the following comments. The existing site is in poor condition and detracts from the Gibraltar Nature Reserve that surrounds it and the proposed development is sensitively designed.
It manages to retain the open feel of the site when viewed from Jew’s Gate and the Mediterranean Steps. It takes into account the surrounding natural and heritage assets with the impact on the Retrenchment Block being reduced.
On parking, the Town Planner said it welcomed the underground parking but stressed that every effort should be made to ensure its construction does not impact any uncovered archaeology. It also noted that there was no motorcycle or bicycle parking spaces, or electric charging points in the underground carpark.
During the meeting various commission members made comments and expressed their thoughts or concerns on the project. These included concerns regarding the boundary wall which will be three meters high will not be sufficient due to the windy conditions of the site.
Concerns were raised that once the facility was created and athletes realised they were restricted in when they could use the facility a request for a higher wall would be filed.
A spokesperson for the Government said that the wind would affect athletes as much as the rain may affect people playing football here or in other countries, but given the fact most athletic events are in the summer the wind issues are lessened.
Concerns regarding the geo physical nature of the area and if there was caves or fissures (undiscovered or not) affected by the project were also raised. The Commission was told that trenches have been dug in a bit to ascertain if construction of the facility would impact these geographical features and at present they do not see any “major issues.”
Vegetation around the site was mentioned by a number of commission members, some asked what type of plants would be used such as creepers rising up the walls or if plants that are seen growing on the cliff faces of the Rock would be used. The Government spokesperson said a landscape plan had not been created yet and professional opinion and advise, such as that from Dr Keith Bensusan the director of the Botanic Gardens, would be sought in the production of the plan.
Waste management was also highlighted by a commission member, stating that if rubbish was not disposed of and collected properly each day some may blow into the sea and into the surrounding Nature Reserve.
The development would also see the creation of a tourist office that will be used to facility Upper Rock users with services such as purchasing tickets and providing advice.
A planning application for a 800 seater Europa Point sports facility also received backing from town planners, subject to recommendations.
The Government plans for the Europa Point Sports Club to be the new home of Gibraltar’s Rugby Football Union, cricket, squash, darts and other sports and including the performing arts.
The facility will have a playing field, which will provide for international standard rugby and cricket pitch and nets, and three futsal pitches. It will also be used for football and rugby.
Inside the facility, there will be six squash courts with spectator seats, a large multipurpose sports hall (same size as the Tercentenary Hall) with spectator seats. A small sports hall for cricket nets or general training, a darts club with 10 oches and a completion stage and a gymnasium.
The Town Planner made an array of comments on the project, some of which were similar to that for Lathbury Barracks such as retaining open feel of site; it takes into account the surrounding natural and heritage assets and the need for a flexible sports and leisure facility.
Other comments include the minimalist nature of the design ensures that the facility does not dominate the landscape, that the sustainability and accessibility measures were welcomed but nesting holes and boxes for bats should also be integrated into the design.
It also welcomed the preservation and incorporation of the World War II pillbox.
It noted that that the “proposed development generally compliant with planning policy” but had some recommendations, these included. A brown roof of native species to be planted, nesting holes for birds and bats to be integrated, a traffic management plan for major events to be created and a desk based assessment to be prepared in addition to an archaeological watching brief.