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#ThinkingAllowed: ‘Ageing’ Casemates in need of a facelift

#ThinkingAllowed: ‘Ageing’ Casemates in need of a facelift

Don’t you find there are some people who always look the same and others who you suddenly think have aged? I tend to think the latter normally happens when you have not seen someone in a while. Just like when you see something day to day you miss it’s changing.

It’s what has happened to me with Casemates Square – an area of Gibraltar I love. Whether it’s a business lunch, afternoon coffee or evening drinks with friends Casemates is filled with good memories.

But having been away from Gibraltar for a while, and recently coming back to it, all I could think is “gosh, it has aged”.

Gibraltar’s entrance to the city centre should scream out ‘welcome to a special place’. Instead it resembles the welcome you might expect if you booked Benidorm as a package holiday.

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When I saw it every day I didn’t notice – but on my last proper look – it’s clear some TLC is much needed. Kiosks of different colours, shop signs missing letters, sponsorship parasols creeping their way in, tables and chairs extended left, right and centre (and I’m sure in some cases beyond their demarcated areas) and a casemates balcony awash with banners. It’s not always the design that bothers me but they can’t seem to be attached to railings in any elegant fashion.

There is a lot going for Casemates – a vibrant hub in the city centre with a great selection of bars and restaurants, an art gallery, shops and even your traditional fish and chips, red phone box and street map.

But, it’s all just there – it doesn’t come together to form the visitor experience it should.

They are the little things that matter and which the ‘Minister for Pending’ on the programme I presented with Richard Cartwright ‘Talk About Town’ on GBC TV would have had quite a few things to say about.

Surrounded by Bastion Walls Casemates should spell out to tourists a welcome to a Gibraltar that’s polished, cares and has attention to detail.

Planning must play a more prominent role. Business owners should also take responsibility and if there are any cases where they are not adhering to the rules they must be taken to task. Where the shortfalls are the responsibility of other agencies they need to wake up and take action. The public too has a role to play. The excavation that sits under the bridge, for example, is not a bin.

On a sunny day it’s a joy to watch people coming together and enjoying a drink and food in the good weather. Children playing in the square reflect a feeling of a safe and family-strong community.

I hate comparisons but it would be good for Casemates to develop its own identity as a brand – like Covent Garden in London which has its own website etc… An area that prides itself in quality experiences, a special feel and where even the street performers are regulated by licences and auditions.

It’s come a long way since its days as a dingy car park. Back then many of us might not even have seen anything wrong with it – because it just existed there. When compared to what it was Casemates today is a vast improvement. It has much more potential though.

When Casemates Square was inaugurated by Sir Peter Caruana as Chief Minister it was widely rumoured he had personally intervened to choose the colour for parasols for the square. A decision that was widely mocked.

I’m sure Fabian Picardo too is finding that there seems a lot in Gibraltar that unfortunately shouldn’t but does end up on his desk.

I do understand Mr Picardo’s time is currently taken up with more important and pressing matters, like Brexit, but perhaps he too needs to find some time to concern himself with what colour parasols Casemates should have.

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James Neish
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