Plans for ‘Midtown Park’, a new green area in the heart of town, were officially launched by the Gibraltar Government yesterday, with plans for the project now filed with the Town Planner.
The park, which has yet to be given an official name, covers 4,700 square metres and is located adjacent to the new luxury Midtown development opposite King’s Bastion.
The design includes plans to relocate the Cross of Sacrifice, which will form a key element of the new park.
Dr John Cortes, the Minister for the Environment, launched the project, which will see 82 trees being planted.
“Today to me is a very happy occasion,” he said.
“Because, in all the things that I do as minister, one of the things I enjoy the greatest is when I can relate back to my roots.”
“What we are doing today comes, I think rightly, after the parliament declared a climate emergency.”
Dr Cortes said the plans for the park were being unveiled at a time when the public was voicing concerns regarding construction in Gibraltar.
“We must not forget that alongside the construction, there has been over the past few years a lot of planting of trees, there have been 100s of trees planted since I have become Minister for Environment,” he said.
Comprising of green areas, paved woodland, an organic playpark and a multi-function space, the Midtown park will also be the new home to the Cross of Sacrifice monument currently located at the Sundial roundabout.
The Cross of Sacrifice will be sited as the centrepiece of a paved remembrance area that will be overlooked by the balustrade promenade above and aligned with the British War Memorial.
The planned relocation has been carried out with consultation from the Royal British Legion and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
Addressing comments he has heard from the public via the traditional and social media, Dr Cortes said: “This has come at a request of the Royal British Legion, which felt that the location is a little bit out of the way and that the Cross of Sacrifice should be closer to the heart of town.”
“The actual design of what will go around it is still being worked on and I have already discussed this with the Statutory Heritage and Antiquities Advisory Committee,” he added.
With the Cross of Sacrifice due to be located at the base of War Memorial steps, Dr Cortes called it a “prominent position”.
“The road which currently goes along the leisure centre will be moved to the left hand side, so it [the Cross of Sacrifice] will be at the end of the driveway. It will also be at the end of the walkway coming from Queensway,” he added.
In addition, he said, that keeping it there would allow it to relate to the British War Memorial at the top of the steps, which will also be refurbished as part of the project.
The new park will have a tree lined focal avenue acting as a main pedestrian link between Queensway and the town centre via British War Memorial Steps.
There will be a lift to assist those with mobility issues from Line Wall Road to outside the Kings Bastion leisure centre.
The green areas will have soft landscaping comprising of grassy mounds, perimeter flower beds and will be traversed by tree lined shaded hard landscaped paved pathways.
The paved woodland will be shaded area with the use of high-density trees, possibly evergreen.
The multi-function space will be an open hard paved plaza with concealed infrastructure designed to accommodate various formal and informal functions, such as the Christmas Markets, dance shows and cinema projections.
The aim of the organic playpark is to allow children to play freely, explore and experiment in an unstructured way using level, natural features and organic materials.
The minister believes that the new park is a “wonderful way to add to the success of Commonwealth Park”.
With this in mind, the two parks will be linked via the Kings Bastion leisure centre. In addition, there will be a link between the two parks along the road.
“That pavement will be done in such a way in that there will be a canopy with climbers, probably wisteria. So you will actually be able to walk between the two parks along the pavement which will be separated from the road with a planter,” he said.
Work on the park will start “almost immediately. We are hoping to finish it within this calendar year,” said Dr Cortes.
He noted that this would depend on technical issues such as manufacturing the soil that will be used, much like what was done for Commonwealth Park.
The 82 new trees will be acquired in a mature state so that shade will be provided by nature and not canopies.
During the press conference, Dr Cortes took questions from some work experience students from Westside who are spending the week with the Chronicle.
When asked about noise pollution during the construction phase, he replied: “That is a good question because construction usually brings noise with it, obviously temporary noise.”
“There will be some, but less than if they were building as there is no driving of piles, which is the really noisy bit.”
He was also asked about the sustainability of the grass given the initial problems experienced at Commonwealth Park.
He said: “We had problems in Commonwealth Park grass particularly in the year after it was used as a cinema, because we had thousands of people there twice a week.”
“What happened was that it compressed the soil so there was no air getting into the roots and then the grass did not do to well, developed a fungus which spread to the rest of the lawn.”
“That grass was all replaced and we have not done that again and the grass in Commonwealth Park now is fine. It is not as new as it gets a lot of use but it is doing very well,” he added.
He was asked if dogs would be allowed in the park and replied: “They will be allowed to cross the park like they do in Commonwealth Park. But there is a conflict between dog’s excrement and children playing, and this is a park for families and children.”
Dr Cortes also confirmed that the park would have a water fountain allowing people to refill bottles.
Pics by Johnny Bugeja