The plots thicken: Spain reiterates opposition to reclaiming land while Gibraltar remains defiant

WITH land at a premium, the Gibraltar government has been pinning its hopes on reclamation schemes to provide desperately needed building plots.

This has not gone unnoticed across the border, with the Spanish government consistently critical of a string of building projects.

Earlier this month the issue once again came to the fore, this time over the Cape Vantage project. This will see a ‘tourist development’ and dates all the way back to 2012.

TNT Global Foundation will manage the scheme on land that was reclaimed from the sea several years ago and will include 100 homes, 400 moorings for small boats and a car park. The project will also include a marina with space for mega-yachts and a high-end property development.

Questions were raised in the Spanish parliament, with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation reiterating its ‘opposition to any landfill, construction or any other type of operation on areas not ceded by Article X of the Treaty of Utrecht of 1713’.

But the Gibraltar government has remained defiant. Last year it dismissed Spanish government concerns and pushed on with its €300 million Victoria Keys development.

Artist’s impression of the Victoria Keys development

The Victoria Keys development is centered around a plan to reclaim 130,000 square metres of land using soil and construction waste on the east side of the territory.

The new plot will house more than 1,500 apartments and homes plus numerous commercial units and potentially a hotel.

Gibraltar’s decision to restart the project, previously halted by the COVID-19 pandemic, angered the Spanish government as they believe the waters surrounding the rock belong to them.

As part of the Utrecht Treaty of 1713, Spain claims that it only applied to the land, and that the waters remain Spanish property, with Spain’s then Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya going as far as to say that the treaty only applied to certain areas of Gibraltar.

However, Gibraltar disagrees, and along with the British government, it claims that it owns both the land and the surrounding waters, leaving it free to develop at will.

The aim of the various projects is to help rectify the territory’s critical shortage of housing.

“Projects like this ensure that new companies wishing to move to Gibraltar can get accommodation for themselves and their workers,” said Chief Minister Fabian Picardo at the time.

“And most importantly, it also offers more houses to local residents, a demand that has proven to be insatiable given the popularity of the most recent private developments.”

Pedro Sanchez’s government however has condemned the plans, and has vowed to use ‘any legal means necessary’ to prevent the development going ahead.

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