The lower reaches of the Upper Rock have re-opened to local traffic. This follows a period of closure during the lockdown.
A great deal of thought has gone into whether or not the Upper Rock should remain completely closed to private vehicles, given the benefits to the nature reserve of it remaining closed. However, the Government has had to weigh that up against the legitimate desire of bona fide visitors who enjoy a drive across our only ‘country roads’. The Department of the Environment feels that not allowing local residents access to the lower parts of the Upper Rock could in fact result in a decrease in contact with and appreciation of our natural history and could lead to generations of children, for example, not being able to enjoy and learn about our natural environment. In addition, it would not be fair to deny residents access while tourists are able to travel by taxi and coach.
Therefore, the lower roads from Jews’ Gate along Queen’s Road to Princess Amelia’s battery and down via Moorish Castle will be open, while there will be no private vehicular access to any of the upper roads and strict application of the law banning access at night. Speeding and littering will also be closely monitored. The RGP will assist in enforcing these arrangements.
Exceptions will clearly be Upper Rock residents and other bona fide users such as the emergency services.
These arrangements will be assessed, and other conditions may be introduced in the future if they are felt necessary. These could include a quota of cars allowed, or the requirement to pre-book access, as is the case in many nature reserves around the world.
In the meantime, the use of the newly legislated Gibraltar National trails will be encouraged. These allow access almost throughout the Upper Rock without the need to use roads.
Tour operators, including taxis, will continue to be able to access the Upper Rock during daylight hours to exactly the same areas as they had access before.
Minister for the Environment John Cortes commented, “This has been a tough decision. A big part of me wanted to keep the ban indefinitely. But not everyone is able to walk or cycle up the Rock, and I remember a time when Gibraltarians were denied access to the Upper Rock as it was all MoD, how that felt, and how the majority of the population could not easily access our only real extent of countryside. Of course, we need to keep a very close watch and if the access is abused we will not hesitate in introducing restrictions. Nature is there to be enjoyed responsibly by the community.”