ESG labels 144 student studio apartments as ‘overkill’

Mark Viales

The Environmental Safety Group has labelled the proposed 144 student studio apartments spread across two six-storey buildings at Europa Point as an ‘overkill’ on the preserved open area. 

The Gibraltar Government project, which bypasses requiring approval from the Department and Planning Commission, will initially house visiting Island Games athletes before an interim period of short-term rental. It will then subsequently be used as student accommodation for the University of Gibraltar.

Janet Howitt from the ESG challenged Cultural Minister Steven Linares at yesterday’s DPC meeting on reducing the height and size of the development.

“I am very concerned about mass here and the impact it will have on other projects going forward,” she said. “The works at Europa Stadium went through so much scrutiny to ensure that massing wasn’t excessive. Now this has come along and because it was couched as student accommodation everybody said ‘sure’. But seeing it at this scale I think it is too overbearing. We would have liked it to be a lot smaller and lower and keeping with the demand. This is definitely overkill.”

When asked directly whether the height could be lowered, Mr Linares said that it ‘cannot be lower at this moment in time’ but when pressed further on whether it was due to Island Games commitments he said:

“No, it is because of the University – that it cannot be reduced- We are hoping that it will be successful and fill the 144 rooms with students. UK university accommodation is hired out during the summer period. Initially, until the university fills it up, there will be short-term lease in order to make it viable. I don’t agree that this is the beginning of an amassing of the whole area but I agree that perhaps a future government may want to do something else there.”

The Commission felt that the scale of the development would be overbearing on the immediate surrounding areas, particularly dwarfing the two-storey residential buildings in close proximity.

“We would have preferred the facility in a more built up area,” said Town Planner Paul Origo. “There are obviously very few facilities for students but that could well change in the future with the recent tendering act of Europa Walks. This could set a dangerous precedent for much larger-scale developments in this area when generally speaking it is being preserved as an open area.”


Claire Montado from the Gibraltar Heritage Trust highlighted that an archaeological brief was never conducted before construction began and it was now too late to address this issue.

“There is no point for an archaeological worksheet now,” she said. “That should have happened when the groundwork started.”

However, Mr Linares interjected that the Gibraltar Museum had conducted an archaeological prior to construction following a call from the Ministry of Heritage.

“I made enquiries to the Ministry of Heritage and they told me that nobody went on site,” Ms Montado resolutely said before the Town Planner moved to the next item on the agenda.

<b>Heritage Trust objects to new GBC premises on City Walls </b>

The Gibraltar Heritage Trust has once again objected to the Gibraltar Government funded new GBC studios that will be constructed at South Jumpers Bastion, a listed monument.

Claire Montado from the Trust made the comments at the Development and Planning Commission meeting yesterday where, despite being unable to stop the project as it is government-run, made her feelings known.

“We have maintained our objection to the building of two storeys on a city wall, which is also a listed monument,” she said. “Although it is a government project and there is no vote, we still maintain our objection.”

The original planning application for the South Bastion site was made for a corporate building by Sharrock Shand Limited in 2016, but was taken over by government with a fresh application.

Janet Howitt from the Environmental Safety Group found it curious that there were no GBC cameras filming the DPC meeting, as is the norm, despite GBC CEO Gerard Teuma’s and News Editor Jonathan Sacramento’s combined presence.

Town Planner Paul Origo mentioned that he was sure that the public will hear about the development on GBC that evening and said tongue in cheek ‘But no cameras today’.

“I know. That’s quite telling isn’t it?” replied Ms Howitt. “Perhaps there was some secret filming.”