Together Gibraltar Renews Calls to Government to Provide Safety Assurances on Money-Making Underground School Parking
A number of concerned parents have again approached Together Gibraltar following the news of the sale of underground parking spaces on the site of the future Westside and Bayside Schools, and the new Notre Dame School. They feel their initial concerns have not been adequately addressed in relation to the security issues which result from underground parking on school premises.
Together Gibraltar is therefore renewing its call to Government to reassure the community that the security measures relating to the underground parking are able to deal with the security threats of the day.
On 6th December 2018, in its press statement response to our first set of questions in relation to these concerns, Government replied by saying: “It is regrettable that once again they have shot from the hip before establishing what the true facts are.”
As far back as 2012, the Government of the United Kingdom released a paper titled ‘Protecting Crowded Places: Design and Technical Issues’. It states that “underground or sub basement parking…can present significant challenges from the point of view of counter-terrorism protective security as they increase vulnerabilities to terrorist attack by vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices and hence poses a risk which needs to be assessed.”
The paper notes that schools are not actually included in the guidelines because in order to keep children safe, a controlled environment that provides a higher standard of care is required.
A similar document by FEMA, namely its Reference Manual to Mitigate Potential Terrorist Attacks Against Buildings, refers to how general parking should be located “near, but not on, the site itself” and how building owners should, “if possible, prohibit parking beneath or within a building”.
The inescapable conclusion is that it is difficult to manage underground parking in public buildings from a security perspective and it is even more so when the building is a school!
Together Gibraltar is therefore asking Government what the true facts are. Our questions require clear answers:
1. Has the Government properly assessed the risk and the possible consequences before deciding on these underground parkings? For example, was a security impact assessment conducted and will appropriate measures be put in place to mitigate any such risks?
2. Has Government put in place vetting measures before selling these parking spaces?
3. Have any, and if so, what types of restrictions will be put in place in connection with the transfer of leases for these parking spots?
4. Will the Government propose controls in respect of the sub-letting of these parking spots, and if so, does it have a plan in place to do so in a safe and secure manner?
The recent fire in the underground parking lot at Harbour Views showed how easy it is for cars to catch fire when parked and Together Gibraltar remains concerned at the unnecessary risk posed to pupils as a consequence of these underground spaces in schools.
Further, Together Gibraltar places security, and especially the safety of children, at the top of its agenda. The 2,500 students, their families and the hundreds of teachers who will be in these buildings every day deserve to know that they will be safe and secure. Without wanting to enter into a ping-pong match of political point scoring, we ask Government for genuine assurances given the significant risk that underground parking for schools poses.