In an attempt to protect the land quality in Gibraltar, Government policy states that, in relation to development proposals, any impacts on land quality shall be of prime consideration when determining applications. Similarly, in relation to development on potentially contaminated or contaminated land, Government's policy is that planning permission will normally be granted provided that it can be demonstrated that measures are taken to satisfactorily overcome any danger to human health, the environment or property.
Each proposal for a development on potentially contaminated land is dealt with on a case-by-case basis. Historical land use in Gibraltar has been such that, as with all EU countries, varying degrees of contaminated land exist. The Department of the Environment monitor such cases closely to ensure that any contaminated (or potentially contaminated) material is properly dealt with. The removal and disposal of the contaminated material is considered as a hazardous waste and must be disposed of in an environmentally acceptable manner and in accordance with the instructions that the Environmental Agency may issue. If deemed necessary soil samples are taken to assess the degree and extent of contamination of a site. The Government is drafting legislation that focuses on land quality management and enforces the polluter pays principle in respect to the contamination or pollution of land.
In addition to the above, further ways in which the Government works to ensure that Gibraltar's land area is of the highest quality, ensuring its long-term preservation include:
- Issuing of Tree Preservation Orders
- Undertaking surveys of all planted green areas throughout Gibraltar so as to ensure better management and preservation of all such areas.
- The declaration of a significant portion of Gibraltar as a Special Area of Conservation under the EU Habitats Directive.
Soil plays an important role in controlling and mediating pressures on the environment, and as such, must be considered for the protection of water, air and human health. Applicants for planning permission will be expected to make provision for the beneficial re-use of soil removed from the site. Soil preservation is related to the issue of open spaces within urban environments. There are areas of open space of various sizes, forms and character throughout Gibraltar that are considered important for their contribution to the built environment. There will be a presumption against the loss of open spaces that are considered important in terms of their:
- Contribution to the character and appearance of the built or natural environment;
- Recreational or amenity value
- Ecological value
The aim is that this will include an assessment of all open spaces, taking into account factors such as nature conservation value, recreational and amenity value and landscape value, which will help in determining the relative importance of these areas.