Climate change and environmental protection featured prominently in discussions relating to three major developments during yesterday’s meeting of the Development and Planning Commission.
Under scrutiny at the DPC were three schemes including a residential project on the site of the old casino, a hotel project and marina development in Queensway Quay and the Coaling Island reclamation project.
While climate change was mentioned during the first two projects up for debate, it was during the discussion on the Coaling Island reclamation that additional emphasis was placed on environmental issues.
The Government project was before the DPC to decide what aspects should be included in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the development. This is known as a scoping report.
Some of the matters include traffic and transport, air quality, noise and vibration, climate change, waste, land quality and cumulative effects assessment.
It was during this discussion that climate change was raised as a wider point, not just for this development but for all developments.
The scoping report stated that the effect of climate change would not be significant .
Minister for Environment and Commission member, Dr John Cortes said: “I can’t agree that it has not any potential significant effect. Any development particularly one of this size has a potential effect.”
“There are great possibilities to make it carbon neutral and even, if it is done very well, carbon negative.”
“I have to stress once again that we have to make sure that they look at a whole range of implications of climate change during both the construction phase and then during the time when it is going to be used,” he added.
Minister Steven Linares, who was standing in for Dr Joseph Garcia, said: “Our Government implemented the heritage filter, implemented the environment filter but now it goes even further than that, it is an emergency.”
“Therefore there cannot be any development that has not got an effect on the environment”
“I suggest that it be part of the procedure for the DPC to have this in mind all the time,” he added.
Commission member, Janet Howitt said it was something that the ESG was working on.
“We think that an evaluation of a development should be from the word go, whether you are occupying a marine environment or you are taking away from a green environment,” she said.
“You have to factor in the material that was used and the transport that goes in to creating it.”
“It is not only about the panels that you are going to stick on it or how much landscaping you do, but from the very beginning it has to be a new way of evaluating developments if we are going to build it in to our carbon targets,” she added.
The Town Planner, Paul Origo, said that the Development Plan 2009 would need to be updated to include these polices but that they can adopt decisions based on the climate change declaration and subsequent legislation.
The Reserve, Europa Road
An EIA will not be required for the site of the old casino following a dialogue with the Commission.
However, many factors that are dealt with during such an assessment will have to be surveyed or investigated.
When presented with the information relating to these factors, the Town Planner concluded that the proposed development does not require an EIA.
The ESG’s Mrs Howitt was expressly concerned about the impact the development would have on the Nature Reserve. She believed that the full ecological impacts were not assessed and said: “We should build to what suits the environment, not mould the environment to suit the development.”
Dr Cortes raised his concerns about the project’s macaque plan and believed that it was not sufficient. Mr Origo also raised his concerns about the proposed use of electric fences to keep macaques out.
Dr Cortes was also worried about the assessment that was carried out on the impact of the development on birds in the area.
Queensway Quay Marina Development
The scoping report for the EIA on the three various sites on this development was discussed.
Site one will be the construction of a platform comprising of a car park, a 120-bed boutique hotel and commercial space within the marina waters and connected to land via a road bridge link.
Site two will be the construction of an 11 storey commercial and residential use building with 19 car parking spaces. This will be where the current car park is located.
Site three will be located within the marina waters between the Sails residential building and Cormorant Wharf. The developer wants to build a three storey building with offices and penthouse apartments.
The scoping report raised concerns on certain items surrounding noise for marine life including the bottlenose dolphins, the air quality and noise level during construction.
However, it deemed traffic “unlikely to be any significant effect” and was therefore scoped out, much to the audience’s chagrin.
Dr Cortes agreed with the audience and wished to see the traffic impact assessed in the EIA. Mr Origo agreed and wants marine traffic as well as road traffic included.
The effect on climate change was also scoped out of the EIA. Dr Cortes again did not agree with this.
Mrs Howitt noted: “This public amenity is not just going to affect residents who are clearly going to make their case but it is a very valued amenity for the community of Gibraltar.”
“As such I think the eyebrow raised by the nature of the project is very justified.”
“I hope that there will be strength of feeling to stop it,” she added.
Mr Origo said he felt that the developer should look at the development plan of 2009 closely.
“We did have in 2009 a policy where we wanted to encourage public promenades on the harbour. Which we are aspiring to do with all the reclamations we are now deciding on,” he said.
“I think there should not be any loss of public promenade and if the application is approved I think there should be a public promenade within itself as well so the public can enjoy it,” he added.
All these raised concerns are now scoped in the report for the EIA.