Government has today announced it is making a start on the regeneration of Road to the Lines by inviting interest in the renewal of the area with the provision of some 100 studio apartments for low cost rental.
Road to the Lines lie in an iconic location in the Upper Town. This is the area which borders the Northern Defences to the north, Moorish Castle Estate and Casemates to the south. Historically, Road to the Lines was precisely what its name indicates, the access to a network of defensive lines, batteries and galleries which were Gibraltar’s main defence against an attack from the north. It also marked the extent of civilian occupation of the Rock reaching right up to the dividing wall which separated the military component from the civilian community.
The area is primarily residential and mainly owned by the Government. The Ministry of Housing has slowly been decanting residents from the area. The result of that hard work is that there is now a central island of over 1000m2 which is available for re-development as part of the urban renewal strategy of the Government.
This has worked very well in other areas, with a number of old building clusters now fully regenerated in a way which has breathed life into previously neglected parts of town. The old Police Barracks is a case in point.
The cluster of buildings in this part of Road to the Lines vary from one to four storeys in height. The idea is to decrease the internal floor to floor height in such a way as to increase the number of internal levels without excessively increasing the overall height. In any case, the building height would be kept lower than the historic wall. A green roof is also part of the concept design.
This means that although new-build construction in a period style might allow for a more efficient use of space in what is a constrained site, the aesthetic of this could ensure that the character and the rhythm of the fenestration would be maintained. The elevation treatment and roof details could be such that the appearance of several buildings with juxtaposing heights and contrasting colours could be maintained, even if internally a more continuous and efficient use of space is achieved.
The concept proposal is for the site to be redeveloped in a sensitive way. A small number of ground floor units would be available for commercial use like small cafes or any other use which is compatible with the area. Government say it is important to see the regeneration of this site in the wider context of the renewal of the Upper Town and particularly the opening next door of the Northern Defences themselves as a prime tourist attraction in the future.
It will be a condition of the expressions of interest process that the studio flats are built for low cost rental and not for sale. In fact, any submission which proposes to sell the finished product instead of renting it will be deemed to be null and void.
The Minister for Housing Samantha Sacramento said:
“I am delighted with the proposal for the provision of nearly 100 studio apartments on this site. This area is a stone’s throw away from Casemates and will cater for a very specific demographic particularly young people. I want to thank my team at Housing who have made this possible by allocating flats to existing tenants in order to decant them elsewhere.”
The Minister with responsibility for Urban Renewal, Professor John Cortes said:
“It will be wonderful to see this area brought back to life. The Upper Town is a jewel and slowly we will progress its regeneration. This has the scope to become a tourist attraction in itself with small cafes and shops serving residents and visitors to Gibraltar. This will obviously be subject to full consultation as part of the planning process in order to fully protect heritage and other considerations.”
The Deputy Chief Minister Dr Joseph Garcia said:
“The publication of this Expressions of Interest shortly follows three departments working closely together in order to achieve the desired result for the improvement of Gibraltar as a whole. The site has huge potential. There are adjoining individual buildings outside the current scheme which could also be refurbished and improved going forward. This is a very exciting project which is being launched today, and although it will take time to conclude, the end result will make the effort worth it.”