The Development and Planning Commission yesterday unanimously rejected an application for a development at Rosia Gardens, a decision that prompted applause and cheers from over a dozen objectors who were present.
The presentation by the architect incorporated for the first time a virtual reality tour of the development.
Two virtual reality googles, with different videos, were passed around the DPC members and public so they could experience the development for themselves.
However, the innovative way to present the development was not enough to sway the commission into granting approval, or to turn the opinion of the objectors.
The presentation of the scheme focused on the existing area and how the thought process behind the design.
The area is presently a derelict waste land, including random buildings infested with rats which is a “health issue”, the DPC was told.
At present the street by the proposed development is a “half street” where cars are parked along one side of the narrow road, it was pointed out that emergency services would not be able to get down it. The area is lacking public amenities and is surrounded by developments ranging from six to 16 storeys in height.
The building was created with the vision of reducing massing to give it a more aesthetically pleasing look.
In addition, the design “created a scoop for light and ventilation” and allowed for some of the apartments to have a private garden.
It was also noted that some of the apartments within the development would be “affordable” with different price ranges.
This prompted a deluge of questions towards the architect Ruth Massias Greenberg, asking her to define what the word “affordable” means.
She said the development was affordable when compared to the prices of other projects being presented to DPC.
With this comment a member of the audience heckled Mrs Greenberg, a behaviour that Town Planner Paul Origo said he would not tolerate. He warned the heckler she would be evicted from the meeting if she continued.
The commission was informed that the price per square metre for the development ranged from £3,500 to £3,700 with the smallest apartment being 67 square metres and the largest 110.
It was calculated that that equated to the smallest unit costing £234,500 at the lower end or £247,900 at the higher end. The largest unit would cost £385,000 at the lower end or £407,000 at the higher end.
The numbers prompted a commission member to state, “affordable isn’t related to the market but what people can afford.”
Another commission member stated that the average salary in Gibraltar was £28,751, and that the prices were comparative but not affordable.
The design of the building and the fact each unit was not rectangular in shape drew questions from one member who asked about the extent of habitable space in each apartment given the “skewiff” design. He was told that all of the space was.
Still undecided about the design, his fellow committee member pointed out that acclaimed architect Frank Gehry – famous for the Guggenheim building in Bilbao for example- also created different styles of buildings and that this design was “innovative.”
The development received 16 letters of objection and four petitions from nearby residential buildings. The Vineyards’ petition had 57 signatures, Rosia House had 28, Sunnyside and Rosbay had 17 and Penny and Carter House 16 people signed.
The concerns of the objectors focused on the height of the development, which is nine storey – two for carparks and seven for homes – the increase of traffic in an area that is also congested, the terrain in the area already moves and access to their garages.
Two objectors addressed the commission.
One stated that the application filed was not in keeping what the Expression of Interest the Government issued. The Government asked for a “low low low rise” and for “proposals to be sensitive to the area and neighbourhood.”
Referring to the affordability of the properties, he said: “I don’t mind taking one of these places if they are so affordable and they [the developer] can have mine.”
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