The Government has awarded a tender for the clearing of vegetation at The Mount, which marks the start of preparatory works on this important site. It will be recalled that the transformation of The Mount was a key pledge made by the GSLP/Liberals at the last general election and this is now the policy of the new Government. This will become another open, green area and develop into a Commonwealth Park with woodland in the south of Gibraltar.
These preparatory works for the removal of some vegetation are necessary in order to determine the condition of the structures, the paths and the walls. The site has become overgrown and dense in many areas and this needs to be addressed as a preliminary to the work that is to follow. The planned works will therefore include the clearing and cutting back of vegetation along paths, the removal of undergrowth along the terraced areas, the removal of all dead and dying trees, taking away creepers from mature trees, clearing out the squash court to ground level and disposing of material from the site. This is the first phase of the project.
It will be recalled that The Mount went out to Expressions of Interest in 2015. This was not the first time that the site went out to tender. The Government was not satisfied that any of the commercial proposals put forward as part of that process adequately catered for the importance of heritage and environmental considerations on this sensitive site.
Instead, after discussions with a philanthropic entity based in Gibraltar, the Government took the view that The Mount has to be opened out to the people of Gibraltar and developed into a leisure area with a research and discovery park. The plans make provision for an adventure park, padel tennis and a discovery and events centre. They also include a small camping area for overnight stays.
In addition to this, the civil wedding registry will be moved into the gate-house, which will allow for a civil marriage ceremony to be performed there followed by a reception in the events hall which makes use of the grounds.
The Deputy Chief Minister Dr Joseph Garcia, whose office is driving the project, said:
“The Government is very pleased to see that preparatory works are about to start at The Mount.
The Mount was owned by the Ministry of Defence for very many years and the people of Gibraltar were ordinarily not allowed access into the grounds. It made no sense to allow the site to become a private residential community from which the public could be denied access once again. Instead we will open out the area to the people of Gibraltar in full consultation with stakeholders.
This is a project where my office will again work closely with the Ministry for the Environment and Heritage and my colleague Professor John Cortes. It is a formula that we have used very successfully in the past for example in progressing the works at the Northern Defences. It would be a mistake to try to do everything at once. In the same way as in the Northern Defences, we intend to progress the work in phases and take stock of the situation at different points in time in order to ensure that we emerge with a final product of which the people of Gibraltar can be proud. This will be a showpiece for ‘Green Gibraltar’.”