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  • ESG Radio Newsletter 16/07/15 – catch up with all Gibraltar environmental news!!

    ESG Radio Newsletter 16th July 2015-
    Key words: LNG Concerns – Power Stn impact – Development and energy needs – Town and Heritage Acts – Environmental Conference – Renewable energy in Gibraltar, Denmark and Australia

    The ESG noted the rather general comments made by Lloyds Brand and External Relations Manager to GBC yesterday in response to questions on safety reports and timeframes regarding the use of LNG in Gibraltar – quite honestly, he would have done better and been more credible to have refused the interview on the grounds that he had nothing to comment at this time.
    With the EIA for the new power station imminent for consideration and contracts for construction soon to follow, the predicted date of September for more details on the safety aspects of LNG is too late. The ESG will be meeting with Government shortly and will table a number of issues on this matter once again.
    With the ex MoD generating station now at full throttle at Rosia Road to help meet existing energy needs, the pressure for completing the new power station is as great as ever. Noise and air pollution in the South district has significantly increased once again and the thirst for energy will only grow with the number of new housing estates and other developments in the pipeline.
    Some of you may have read the ESG’s Janet Howitts’ opinion piece in the chronicle a few weeks back on the question of planning. If you missed it you can read it on our website – it essentially summarises our concerns about how planning should be conducted in Gibraltar and includes important measures such as the urgent publication of the revised Town Planning Bill and also The Heritage Act, to name a few. It was therefore genuinely welcomed to see these two drafts published some days later, and indeed, already available online at gibraltarlaws.gi under Command Papers.
    We all know how sensitive development and heritage issues can become in Gibraltar. The public is now invited to feedback on both drafts. Please note that the Heritage Act is open until the 27th July with the Town Planning Bill open until the end of September. You can write in directly to Government with details of where to do this also posted on their website – or you can let us know about planning concerns so that we can consider for inclusion in OUR submission – or you can also contact the Heritage Trust for any issues you may be interested in or concerned about regarding the new Heritage Act. We hope the community will make good use of this opportunity!
    There has been a well-attended Environmental Conference held in Gibraltar this week for all Overseas Territories, which we welcome. We were v disappointed however not to have been included, at least in good time, to participate on this occasion and we hope that we shall be invited to do so in any future, similar event.
    To end with and with the growing number of international expert reports being published on the impacts of a warming climate, it pays to direct ones attention on how different countries are responding to this biggest challenge facing humanity – For example Denmark boasted meeting 140% of its electrical needs these past few days, from wind farms alone! At the same time we hear that Australia’s prime minister has directed a ban on Government financial support for solar and wind powered projects causing a furore in his own party and the public at large – more on that story soon no doubt.
    In Gibraltar we have also been informed that the Gibraltar Government intends to proceed with the eco wave project it announced over a year ago, but was delayed for a number of reasons – we should see some significant progress in installation during the last quarter of 2015. Another memorandum of understanding was signed between our govt and another private company – this time in testing the viability of underwater current power off Gibraltar’s coast using marine turbines. This is technology that the ESG has long been advocating as appropriate for Gibraltar and therefore exciting news and we hope to see the first steps of this pilot study taken very soon.

    For more on these and other items of interest please visit our website at: www.esg-gib.net – you can also email us: esg@gibtelecom.net with feedback and any questions and/or comments on what you have heard today. Thank you for listening!

    ESG not invited to Environmental Conference in Gibraltar 16th July 2015

    As an environmental NGO, the ESG welcomes the hosting of an international environmental conference in Gibraltar during this week.

    However the group is very disappointed not to have been included, at least in good time, to participate in a Government led environmental event such as this, firmly believing our contribution could have been of value with the knowledge that we have and have gained and put at Gibraltar’s disposal. Also from our years of campaigning for the protection of the living environment, pressing for highest standards in environmental management and tackling both local and regional threats at EU level.

    The group hopes it can be included in future events to contribute our perspective and directs those interested to learn more about our work to visit our website at: www.esg-gib.net which catalogues 12 years of news, reports and campaigns, as well as detailed Wish Lists with our recommendations for a better environment for Gibraltar.

    Environmental Safety Group (ESG)
    Email: esg@gibtelecom.net
    Website: www.esg-gib.net

    Opinion Piece by Janet Howitt on Planning Issues 30th June 2015 and 13th July 2015

    It was the author’s intention to stimulate debate and discussion on an issue of deep interest to many who live on the Rock. It is hoped that it has achieved that. Since its publication on the 29th June Government has announced the draft Town Act bill for public feedback, and today, the 13th July, the Heritage Act, also for public feedback.
    It is progress of some kind. We must, as a community, not ignore this opportunity of participating in the process that will determine ultimately, how decisions will be taken on planning and on protection of our heritage and the environment.
    Please visit Government website Command Papers section

    Opinion piece by Janet Howitt June 2015
    Having seen the latest application by Ocean Village given the green light for Waterside Villas in the Marina Bay waters, I felt compelled to put pen to paper and share some deep misgivings about our planning process here in Gibraltar. This application once again demonstrated how divisive and challenging a planning matter can become and yet still get through the system.
    Undoubtedly, plans, consultation and transparency are on a much better footing than in the past and this is to be commended. The level of scrutiny, for instance, on how an application will affect flora and fauna, and on the impacts on residents, from industrial activity, has also improved. All this is indeed progress.
    However, since the ESG has sat on the DPC, for almost 4 years now, what has struck me the most is that in spite of the great efforts taken by all concerned to open up and democratise the planning system, there continue to be serious cracks in planning in Gibraltar today that need to be tackled before much more of our beloved land is concreted over.
    There are a number of pending and major issues which affect planning, which are awaiting resolution, development, or even setting up. Some of these are:
     Revision of the Town Act – Promised at the last election and still not seen any form of public consultation. This important document affects our rights as citizens; it also directs procedures for developers, objectors, Government departments and the wider public and should be reflecting the Gibraltar we live in today. Its revision is central to improve current planning practices in Gibraltar
     Heritage Act – Must be finalised and published alongside the efforts from the action group set up to review all existing heritage build to prevent further avoidable losses (a la Risso Bakery and others)
     E Planning – The provision of online application information has long been promised and is a measure that will ensure that the public has adequate time to review plans that interest them. This should include all projects – both private and government, which should come before DPC for full planning permission and process
    · Holistic Planning for Gibraltar – Town Planners will say that the Development Plan determines what can happen in various zones in Gibraltar but, as we have seen over the years, many projects continue to shock, upset and anger the public. Better dissemination of information over the entire, potential development envisaged for Gibraltar plc, by whoever is in Government, must therefore be laid more transparently before the people
     Ongoing revision of the 2009 Gibraltar Development Plan – This is a critical tool that directs and enforces planning in Gibraltar and improved public feedback and participation would greatly assist here too
     Strategic Vistas – This is a crucial concept in planning policy and yet is currently absent from planning considerations in Gibraltar because it has not yet been developed as a useable tool due to lack of resources. It needs to be assessed, also with public feedback, and set up, urgently

    Development is often sold as a key earner and pillar of our economy and so it is difficult to oppose it without appearing to undermine Gibraltar’s economic wellbeing. It is equally important to consider how sustainable all this development is. Future generations should also be able to rely on this resource for economic stability.
    Although individual political parties would be expected to prioritise different types of development, the range of permitted development would be embedded in law, and so contained. This way projects would get approved on suitability as well as opportunity for investment.
    With an increasingly congested area, it is essential, even at this late stage that development is looked at holistically. Let us have very clearly explained precisely how much of Gibraltar is due to be developed, how much is in private hands and how much is protected from development. Informing the community in this transparent way will hopefully avoid the recurring disappointment that occurs when another open space falls under the hammer. The nymbism (“not in my back yard syndrome” as cynically quoted by some) is a natural reaction when such information is not forthcoming.
    But we still to need to ask ourselves whether the public should have a say on how we proceed with development in Gibraltar in broad terms? Our land, which was out of reach for many years, and the prerogative of past colonial masters, is now IN OUR HANDS. I believe we should have a say, on an informed basis so we also bear the responsibility of meeting society’s needs.
    We must do this positively, understanding what we need to do and how we need to get there. Planning is fraught with contention in most places in the world, but in a tiny place like Gibraltar, we should endeavour to carry this out together as a community, embracing the highest standards and in full knowledge of what is planned under the master plan.
    Essential factors such as livability, quality of life and protecting our living environment and heritage should also be incorporated in a holistic manner underpinning a strong and workable Gibraltar Plan.
    In order to ensure that the DPC is the neutral body it should be, the ESG has advocated in our Wish List 2015 for the removal of Government ministers on the Commission. The reasoning for this is that it would remove the manifesto commitment element from planning decisions and ensure that all projects are approved subject to meeting best planning standards, design and practice and meet the requirements of the master “Gibraltar Plan”. Is this naïve thinking? I don’t think so.
    At a number of DPC sessions I have raised the need to build in, or preserve, breathing space between developments. This is important and necessary to reduce the sense of the concrete jungle Gibraltar is fast becoming in places.
    Development in Gibraltar is undergoing a massive push at present. It is apparent that some major decisions are also taken some time before reaching the DPC where it is difficult, at times, to fully appraise a project before taking a vote on it.
    Therefore it is my view that the various measures mentioned above and repeated here could go some way to improving planning standards and outcomes from where we are today: achieving urgent public feedback on the Town Act, publication of the Heritage Act, E-planning, ensuring that Govt projects undergo procedures for full planning permission, removal of Govt Ministers from DPC, Holistic and Forward planning, Development Plan review, and importantly the protection of essential Strategic Vistas of Gibraltar. There are still significant areas in Gibraltar free from development – lets make sure these are treated as the valuable assets they are to us all.
    Sincerely, Janet Howitt

    ESG welcomes publication of Town Planning Bill 7th July 2015

    ESG Press Release
    Draft Revised Town Planning Bill
    Tuesday 7th July 2015

    The ESG welcomes the publication of the draft revised Town Planning Bill for public consultation and feedback.
    This has come on the heels of a recently published extensive opinion piece on planning issues by ESG’s spokesperson, Janet Howitt, calling for this and for other measures. The group believes it is critical that the community takes the opportunity of reading the bill and sending in recommendations and/or concerns. The Bill will address the need for greater and more direct consultation of affected parties from new development applications, will overhaul the enforcement procedure, which to date has been unfit for purpose, and redefine the role of the Commission in broader planning schemes, among its other aims.

    A spokesperson for the group added, “The ESG is now studying the Bill to verify whether the concerns and aims contained in our own Wish List on planning are being fully addressed. Of course a lot of major developments have already been built or approved and we would have preferred to see the new bill published much earlier. Nevertheless we must make sure that, as a community, we engage more closely in overall planning matters in Gibraltar, and not only when it directly affects the individual. This bill will hopefully generate a strong public response.”

    The ESG invites its members and the public to send in any concerns or suggestions and we shall be very pleased to consider these for inclusion in our own submission to Government.

    The draft bill is a Command Paper and can be found at the following link:-


    Deadline for feedback is the 30th September 2015

    Lloyds and LNG issues 21st June 2015

    ESG Press Release
    Lloyds and LNG issues

    The ESG has now had time to read through the LNG Report produced by Lloyds and, as has previously indicated, considers it makes for uncomfortable reading. Regardless of the final decision taken by Government with respect to the finer details, the Lloyds Report categorically states that risks and safety issues presented by LNG activity in such close proximity to people as is currently expected at the North Mole, to carry unacceptably high risks.

    The public is not naïve and understands the vested interests also at play here but the ESG believes that the necessary steps are now for Government to issue its own independently produced safety report on the prospect of using LNG as a fuel at the North Mole location.

    Regardless of potential future LNG bunkering or even LNG powered cruise shipping opportunities, the ESG thinks that considering these now is premature without first having established the absolute safety of using this fuel in such a small place as Gibraltar, and in such close proximity to residential areas.

    The long-term power generation problems in Gibraltar need to be relegated to the past and a new modern, environmentally compliant generating station built urgently. The focus must be on this badly needed facility and not on the LNG question, which is only serving to delay matters even further.

    The ESG believes that as things stand, the Lloyds Report confirms an unacceptable degree of risk that would make it impossible for the ESG to support the use of LNG in Gibraltar.

    We, along with the rest of the community, await further details from Government.