Rosia Tanks a Great Gibraltar Loss says Naval Dockyards Society
We were fascinated to see the Consultation Draft Gibraltar Development Plan Parts I & II 2007, particularly page 32:
3.36 The Commission places great emphasis on the protection of Gibraltar's historic environment that it considers should be valued for its own sake, as a central part of our cultural heritage and our sense of national identity.
And page 34:
3.44 Protected monuments, buildings and properties form an important part of Gibraltar's heritage and there will always be a presumption in favour of their preservation, protection and enhancement.
It seems that the government is now advocating ‘evaluation, investigation and recording of sites' before development (page 36).
Is this the same government that in the face of opposition from Gibraltar's South District (who collected 3,000 signatures within 21 days against the development), and the criticism of international heritage organisations and the press, demolished in August 2006 a unique and irreplaceable historical treasure without any evaluation, investigation or recording?
Rosia Water Tanks at Gibraltar Victualling Base were built to supply the Royal Navy from 1804, enabling Admiral Nelson to maintain his fleet in the Mediterranean. They represented a unique engineering monument to Royal Navy ingenuity and Gibraltarian craftsmanship, transforming Gibraltar into an invincible fortress and supplying the community with water until the 1970s.
Jonathan Coad, author of The Royal Dockyards 1690-1850 (1989) wrote to the NDS in dismay at ‘the destruction of the
The Naval Dockyards Society is an international organisation founded in 1997 which is concerned with and publishes material on naval dockyards and associated activities, including victualling, medicine, ordnance, shipbuilding, signal stations, shipbreaking, provisions and supplies; all aspects of their construction, history, archaeology, conservation, workforce, surrounding communities and family history; and all aspects of their buildings, structures and monuments relating to naval history. The Society is therefore involved closely in the terrestrial and underwater heritage of all these sites.
vaulted underground storage tanks, which were a remarkable construction feat and are presumably among the largest such subterranean structures on the Rock? Equally serious will be the impact of the multi-storey building upon the enclosure of the Victualling Yard which will seriously affect the whole setting of this remarkable enclave and destroy the intimate scale of this area.'
The Naval Dockyards Society supported the South District in their campaign, pointing out that all over Europe, from Venice to Gdansk, the global peace dividend is releasing ex-military land and European Community grants are financing heritage development. Gibraltar has benefited from the release of MOD sites - Queensway, Windmill Hill, Europa Point, Eastern Beach and Buena Vista Barracks - which are supplying urgently required housing - without having to destroy the unique heritage asset of Rosia Water Tanks for this use.
Heritage renewal preserves a unique investment for the future, providing immediate employment, community regeneration and future tourism income. The Development Plan itself states that Gibraltar's tourism income has increased 300% since 1991, providing 20-25% of GDP in 2002, yet the government destroyed a unique historic site, despite an undertaking in 2001 to develop Rosia Bay ‘in the context of its natural and historical heritage.'
In 2006 the NDS called for an Environmental Impact Assessment and archaeological, architectural and engineering surveys before the Rosia Tanks were demolished. These would have shown that interpretation through documentation, architecture, engineering, maritime visualisation and re-enactment would have provided jobs, tourism income and educational relevance to the population of Gibraltar, to celebrate three hundred years of Gibraltarian loyalty and endeavour.
In 2006 Rosia Tanks and the Victualling Yard were not listed - only the entrance gateway to the Victualling Yard is listed. But page 35 of the Plan states that:
POLICY ENV19 - SETTING OF PROTECTED MONUMENTS ETC
PROPOSALS THAT WOULD ADVERSELY AFFECT THE SETTING OR APPEARANCE OF A PROTECTED MONUMENT, BUILDING OR PROPERTY, WILL NOT NORMALLY BE PERMITTED.
And on page 36 it states:
POLICY ENV21 - ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITES
THERE WILL BE A GENERAL PRESUMPTION AGAINST DEVELOPMENT THAT HAS A SIGNIFICANT ADVERSE AFFECT ON DESIGNATED SITES OF ARCHAEOLOGICAL IMPORTANCE.
This policy cannot save the Rosia Tanks, which have been destroyed, but lessons can be learned from this tragedy. Further destruction of the heritage of Rosia Bay can be prevented. The Development Plan states on page 115:
19.8. Rosia Bay has significant historical importance being the bay into which HMS Victory sailed after the Battle of Trafalgar. There are two important gun batteries dating from the 18th Century sited above the bay, including Parsons Lodge which occupies a dominant position. Opposite Parson's Lodge is the Victualling Yard dating back to 1808.
19.10 Rosia Bay has been identified as being suitable for redevelopment for tourist, recreation and leisure use subject to proposals being sensitive to the historical elements of the area.
POLICY Z8.4 - ROSIA BAY
THE SITE OF ROSIA BAY, AS SHOWN ON THE PROPOSALS MAP, IS ALLOCATED FOR TOURIST, RECREATION AND LEISURE USE. ANY PROPOSAL SHALL HAVE TO:
A) ENSURE THAT THE CHARACTER AND APPEARANCE OF ANY HISTORICAL BUILDINGS WITHIN THE AREA ARE NOT DETRIMENTALLY AFFECTED;
If the government truly intends to implement the principles of the Development Plan and ensure the viability and integrity of Rosia Bay, it must list the entire Victualling Yard and Rosia Bay complex. This includes Parson's Battery, the Grand Arsenal, a rail tunnel linking the base to the Dockyard, a hoist to raise injured seamen to the Royal Naval Hospital and a cold meat store cut into the cliffs.
In Jonathan Coad's opinion: ‘The facilities at Gibraltar are, I believe, the oldest purpose-built RN overseas victualling facilities to survive. Their completeness uniquely allows us to appreciate a vital part of the shore infrastructure that was so successful in supporting the sailing fleet and contributing to the supremacy of the Royal Navy.'
‘The historic naval and military buildings and engineering works together with the fortifications are what give Gibraltar its historic interest and I suspect increasingly attract visitors.'
Dr David Davies
Dr Ann Coats
4 October, 2007