Parking in Gibraltar is an impossible task.
Don’t take my word for it: it’s what the minister for infrastructure and planning told parliament. Paul Balban said it in the context of there being 505 designated parking spaces for 2,700 households in Residential Parking Scheme Zone 2, which is already technically in force but won’t be policed until the 3rd of April. Still, it’s quite an admission coming from the minister whose portfolio includes traffic and parking.
The implementation of the Zone 2 scheme follows what the government has described as the successful launch last July of the much smaller Zone 1, which encompasses the area of Grand Parade, Alameda Estate and Rosia Road. Mr Balban conceded there’d been a “massive uproar” and “a lot of complaints” from Zone 1 residents when the scheme was introduced, but claimed opinions were starting to change, with some people now telling him it’s the best thing that’s happened.
Zone 2 takes in most of the town centre, from Queensway to Flat Bastion Road and from Corral Road to Ragged Staff. As happened with Zone 1 the scheme’s come in for its fair share of criticism. Disgruntled motorists complain of having to drive around searching for parking, while everywhere around them are vacant “resident permit holders only” spaces that they cannot use.
Rubbing salt in the wounds is how former GSD and opposition leader Daniel Feetham described it. He outlined the “misery in the mornings” of those, like himself, who have to use their car because they live too far away from town to walk, only to see empty parking bays all along Queensway that are unavailable to them.
In a bizarre attempt to mollify, minister Balban suggested that from the motorists’ point of view nothing had changed: before they couldn’t park in that road because all the spaces would be taken, now they can’t for a different reason!
Mr Feetham said that in addition, pay car parks like the one at Midtown, where until now he could find a space relatively easily, are now full as drivers clear the road to avoid their vehicle being towed away or clamped.
I had a similar experience when I went to collect my grandson from nursery the other day. Queensway I (wrongly) assumed was already out of bounds. The Ragged Staff car park was full, and within a Grand Parade half-empty because of the Zone 1 restrictions I was lucky to find the very last of a very few blue-lined pay and display bays, where the parking fee is a rather steep £1.20 an hour.
Throughout last Friday’s parliamentary exchanges Paul Balban emphasised that the residential parking initiative is a pilot scheme that will be tweaked if necessary. He urged the public to give it time to settle, and predicted that in six to eight weeks parking spaces that are now empty will probably all be full.
I hope he’s right and the investment, with further residential zones to come, will prove to have been worthwhile.
GoG AND THE DPC
At long last the government is poised to introduce legislation that will require it to obtain the permission of the Development and Planning Commission before proceeding with its own projects. This was an election manifesto commitment of the GSLP/Liberals in 2011 and 2015.
A Bill for a Town Planning Act is on the agenda for the current meeting of parliament. One of its provisions is that, except in cases that are urgent or necessary in the public interest, “the Government shall seek approval from the Commission … before carrying out any development”.
That’s great, so far as it goes.
But membership of the Commission, as outlined in Schedule 1 of the Bill, will still include two government ministers: the minister with responsibility for Lands and the minister with responsibility for the Environment, both of who will have voting rights. Would they vote against a government project? Maybe they’d exclude themselves from proceedings that involve a government application, but is that a good enough safeguard?
In all, the DPC will comprise 11 members. Besides the two ministers, it will include the town planner – a government official – as chairman and four members nominated by the chief minister. I for one will be watching closely to see whether any government projects are denied planning permission once the new law is implemented.