Gibraltar World Heritage Status Bid withdrawn

March 7, 2006 at 10:54 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The South District Association (SDA) is astonished and dismayed at the position adopted by the Chief Minister on GBC’s Newswatch programme broadcast last night in respect to the application for UNESCO World Heritage Status for Gibraltar.

It was this same Government who submitted an application to have ‘Fortress Gibraltar and the Gibraltar Defences’ placed on the UK list to UNESCO for consideration as a World Heritage site.  For them to now belittle and bring into question the validity of this process makes no sense whatsoever.

The announcement by the Chief Minister last night that he has made yet another of his ‘balanced’ decisions, namely, to withdraw Gibraltar from the UK list applying for UNESCO World Heritage status is, in the SDA’s opinion, the only way he can now justify the unjustifiable.  Having stated in the media on numerous occasions and even, in his recent, Sky News interview that the Rosia Tanks are just some old water tanks with no heritage importance, he cannot now risk the embarrassment of being taken off the UK list precisely because of their destruction.  ICOMOS-UK, the organisation evaluating the application for UNESCO World Heritage, included the Victualling Yard and the Water Tanks as being an integral part of the fortifications.  They wrote to the CM asking him to halt the demolition pointing out that the sites are now part of UNESCO’s World Heritage Tentative List but this appeal has been ignored.  The Tentative List text states the ‘sites listed are protected and improved legislation is currently in preparation’.

The SDA would like to ask the Government exactly how they have come to make this so called ‘balanced’ decision on heritage versus ‘affordable’ housing.  This decision is bizarre when one considers that it has not commissioned its own Heritage Division to survey and evaluate this site.  Surely a balanced decision is reached after studying and evaluating all aspects of this matter not just one.  The Association wonders if the silence from the Minister for Heritage and the entire Heritage Division actually speaks volumes.  Are they now redundant?

The Chief Minister in his interview last night gave the reason for dropping the application as being the fact that if the whole of Gibraltar is listed then the Government would be having to ask the UN to approve all future developments in Gibraltar.  He then went on to admit that that was what he believed would be the case but that he was not actually sure.  So are Gibraltar’s fortifications and defences now going to miss out on this unique opportunity to aspire to be listed alongside other World Heritage sites such as the Taj Mahal and the Great Pyramids of Egypt because of what appears to be a poorly researched opinion?

The suggestion proposed by the Chief Minister that in future Gibraltar could reapply for this status for individual buildings is, the SDA believes, not only disingenuous but also quite unrealistic. There is no single site or building that by itself could be put forward for an application for UNESCO World Heritage Status. This is quite apart from the fact that it would take at least another 10 to 15 years to even reach the stage this application is at now, if at all possible. 

In the SDA’s opinion, the significant fact here is that ICOMOS-UK who evaluated Gibraltar’s application and submitted it to UNESCO for inclusion in the tentative list of World Heritage Status sites, very much considers the Rosia Tanks as part of the fortifications that comprise ‘Fortress Gibraltar’ and that their demolition therefore endangers the application for World Heritage Status.

The South District Committee


Press Release – 7th March 2006

Gibraltar World Heritage Status Bid withdrawn



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