The developer seeking permission to demolish and build on the sites of the Continental Hotel and the Rialto Cinema had one application approved and the other deferred at yesterday’s meeting of the Development and Planning Commission.
In respect of the Continental Hotel, approval was given for the demolition of the existing building but not for the construction of the development as filed by the applicant.
The applicant, which has a long standing relationship with Gibraltar and has invested on previous occasions, was seeking permission to create a seven-story apartment block with 22 properties.
This application had objections from owners and residents of Turnbull’s Lane who are concerned about the loss of light, the height of the buildings giving the lane a more narrow feel and access by emergency services such as the fire brigade during construction.
One objector stated that the development plan only permits demolition of a building if it has a positive effect on the area.
They believe that on this occasion, demolition will not improve the area, adding that the design of the proposed building is not in keeping with the site.
In addition, there were concerns regarding the increase in the number of residents in the area, particularly given the new development will not provide additional parking.
Some members of the Commission also expressed their concerns regarding the design and noted that it followed the look of the existing hotel, rather than drawing on a more traditional feel for the area.
Based on this, the application to demolish was granted but the application to create a new building was not.
The application for outline planning permission for the proposed demolition of the Rialto Cinema Building at 24 Turnbull’s Lane was deferred to allow for revised plans to be filed that will retain more of the heritage aspects of the building.
The applicant is seeking to demolish the existing building and construct an eight-story block with 58 apartments. The height of the development concerned the Commission and objectors alike.
According to the developer the neglect that this property has endured over the last few decades has left it in a pitiful state of repair.
However, some aspects of the building are salvageable, such as the St. Pancras Iron Works cast iron stairs that is the only example of its kind on the Rock.
The developer aims to retain these elements and incorporate them into the new build.
An explanation for the demolishment and creation rather than refurbishment was given by the applicant.
“The complex’s derelict state has limited the options considerable with demolition clearly vying for dominance contrasted against a costly refurbishment of an obsolete space,” the developer’s spokesman said.
“It would be a treacherous path to recover all of the heritage value of this site by restoring it to a former glory that has long since passed. This, pragmatically, the effort now must shift to what can be preserved,” he added.
The building at present has some tenants, who are in a rent controlled home, they would be relocated to a suitable property during the works and would return home once the works have been completed.
Some objectors to the development expressed their concerns regarding demolition as they are neighbours and share a party wall, while others were concerned in general what the demolition of the building would do to their property.
One objector was concerned that the value of their home would decrease because of the loss of light and lack of privacy given the proposed height of the development.
One objector asked why was there any point in having a Development Plan if people do not have to adhere to items in there such as the height of buildings inside the City Walls being capped at five storeys.
The applicant will return with a revised plan for discussion at a later date.