Friday, August 17, 2012


I was interested to read the recent statement from the Glacis Estate Tenants Association voicing their view that they welcome the proposed improvements to their estate but oppose the building of an additional floor.
Shortly before the General Election last December I sat in on a meeting where a group of women who are residents at Constitution House on the Glacis Estate voiced their concerns and aired their complaints. They brought with them photographs of the state of the blocks of flats in which they live.
Their complaints included:
Children from a nearby school playing truant and hiding out on the top floor of their high rise block of flats.
Fires being started deliberately in the rubbish shoots.
Acts of vandalism in the lifts and public areas.
The lack of smoke and fire alarms in public spaces.
At least one person openly selling drugs from one of the flats.
The poor maintenance and structural state of some flats.
A general lack of policing and security.
The women made two comments on their situation. The first was that as their estate and the Laguna opposite were the first that visitors from Spain see when entering the Rock they were ridiculed because of the perceived “poor state in which Gibraltarians live”. They are second class citizens on their own Rock.
The second was that it was shameful that their estate was so run down especially as it was opposite the luxury developments on the harbour on the opposite side of the road. They seemed to suggest it was shameful that the residents of the luxury harbour apartment developments should have to suffer their poor estate alongside.
I made the point to them that their situation was shameful wherever they lived: because everybody had the right to live in dignity. Many of the residents of these estates live in shameful conditions yet they are still clinging on to their dignity. Their situation, as the GSLP Liberal government recognises, needs to be rapidly addressed.
Ask yourself would it be acceptable for the luxury harbour developments to have school children playing truant on the top floor? No it wouldn’t!
Would it be acceptable for vandals to set fires in their rubbish shoots? No it wouldn’t!
Would it be acceptable for a drugs dealer to openly operate from one of the luxury apartment? No it wouldn’t.
The answer would be “No it wouldn’t” to any other such question you may set. The rationale may be that if you pay one million pounds for a luxury apartment you are buying a better quality of life than those on a government estate. I would argue that the million pounds buys you a luxury apartment with a view over the harbour but the quality of life should be the same wherever you live: be you rich, middle income or poor.
Due to the situation in these blocks of flats and on these estates the residents are not only poorly housed but suffer stress, low living conditions, live in fear of vandalism and violence with pressures on their children from the truant and drugs culture. Google Glacis and you will find the search topped by two drugs raids on the estate.
As the GSD government left office without one single government housing scheme in progress or in the planning stage the GSLP Liberal administration has had to start from scratch. This state of affairs would have been understandable if the GSD was intent on pursuing a scorched earth policy so the incoming government had to clear up the mess. However given the election could have gone either way it means the GSD had made absolutely no provision for future government housing or the need to reduce the lengthy waiting list should it have been returned to power. This was bad politics and showed sheer contempt for the needy in Gibraltarian society.
The urgent need has to be to carry out major programmes at Glacis, Laguna and the Moorish Castle Estates not to just reclad them to make them look better but to solve the major problems beneath that cladding these communities of tenants have to live with. This is not a housing problem but a cross ministry problem from education to policing. Out must go the truants; out must go the drug dealers; the rubbish shoots have to be secured; fire and smoke alarms have to be installed; vandalism has to be eradicated and if the Royal Gibraltar Police does not have the manpower or the inclination to make them secure then private security should be employed. It is simply not acceptable to take the view that “these estates have social problems because they are where poorer government housing tenants live: what else would you expect?” What might be the norm for a British or Spanish inner city sink estate should not be acceptable in the small community that is Gibraltar.