Gibraltar came a step closer to having a national football stadium yesterday after the Development and Planning Commission gave outline planning approval to plans filed by the Gibraltar FA.
The DPC heard from representatives of the GFA, with Ramboll and Stadium Consultancy addressing the DPC over the proposals for what will become the home of international and domestic football in Gibraltar, in line with FIFA criteria.
The GFA’s representatives outlined how the stadium would probably become “the most used stadium in the whole of Europe”, with well over 150 matches expected to be played during the season.
The plans, which were widely publicised after the GFA put the project out for public consultation, will see the present stadium redeveloped into an 8,000 seater stadium with covered stands.
The plans address all the relevant issues relating to lighting and height restrictions given the stadium’s proximity to the airfield.
Additionally the plans include the widening of the pedestrian zones from 1.4m to 4m around the stadium, with the developers indicating that the plans were taking into consideration the impact it would have as one of the key developments at the new “entry into the city centre of Gibraltar” once the new eastside road is opened.
Representatives from Ramboll said the project was designed with sustainability in mind, reducing its energy use through solar panels, insulation and other environmental elements, while also addressing the issue of “grey water.”
An environmental impact assessment screening process was also being undertaken in relation to traffic and transportation.
With the stadium located at a key juncture into the city centre, developers were taking into consideration both traffic management, transportation to the stadium for fans and crowd control issues with discussions already in place with the traffic commission.
Having addressed the DPC and after being congratulated over the presentation by some of the members, the DPC heard from the Town Planners who advised that the Department of Environment wished to ensure that ground water body under the site was not contaminated, while the Heritage Trust wished to ensure that any archaeological remains found during construction would be recorded.
A detailed assessment on changes to traffic was also requested.
The application had only received one objection, that from the bar currently located at the stadium in which the objector is said to have indicated that he currently had an existing business there and had not been re-provided within the new project.
The Minister for the Environment, Dr John Cortes, highlighted that a colony of swifts were currently residing within the roof of the present stadium and asked for them to be re-provided before this was demolished.
The DPC approved the project unanimously in what was a very short discussion over the proposals tabled. Many of the issues said to have been addressed by the developers in their presentation.
The project will now go into its next stage of planning before works commence.
During the DPC meeting it was also revealed that the planned start for the construction of the project will be delayed after a “request from Government not to start works until after the Island Games.”
It is understood that the Gibraltar Government have asked for the stadium to be kept in its present state as part of its contingency plans in the event of delays to the construction of the other sports complexes being built at Europa Point and Lathbury Barracks.
Sports Minister Steven Linares last week indicated that the Government had set up contingency plans in case of delays to the projects.
He said the 2019 Natwest International Island Games had been obtained through its current facilities “which would remain untouched until the other projects were complete for use.”
The approval received was described as a “major stepping stone” for Gibraltar’s football as it looks at bringing “football home.”