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Developers of American University of Malta request planning permission to start Zonqor campus

American University campus developers Sadeen have asked the Planning Authority to green-light the demolition of the former national swimming pool at Zonqor Point and to construct 'student halls' and sports facilities on ODZ land.

James Debono
26 July 2017, 10:56am
Last updated on 26 July 2017, 11:04am
The area earmarked for the project at Zonqor
The area earmarked for the project at Zonqor
Sadeen Education Investments Ltd, the company behind the controversial American University of Malta, has formally presented a planning application to demolish the Marsaskala swimming pool complex to start work on its campus.

The AUM received full university status by Malta’s higher education commission (NCPHE) in 2016, but the proposal for the 41,000 square metre campus in the Zonqor natural park prompted a massive national protest a year earlier.

The proposed campus lies partly outside development zones (around 18,000 sq.m), located next to a Special Protected Area. The ODZ part will be mainly dedicated to student halls and sports facilities set on a car park catering for 495 cars.

The application was presented on 17 February 2017, two months before the start of the election campaign during which no mention was made of the AUM project in Marsaskala by government.

The plans identifying zoning of project.
The plans identifying zoning of project.
The plans by architect Ray Demicoli, a member of the Planning Authority’s design advisory committee, foresee study rooms, an administration building, buildings for the arts and science faculties, an engineering school, a school for IT and communications, food courts, an auditorium. A central pool is included in the area presently occupied by the national pool. The ODZ area will include both the outdoor sports facilities set upon a massive car-park and students halls that will overlook the sea, organised in eight blocks.

The application (04746/17) was not previously listed in the list of pending ODZ applications in Marsaskala on the PA website, and only recently appeared in the list of pending applications recently (being seen by MaltaToday this morning). Applications are normally only given a PA number after the initial screening by the PA. Perhaps deceptively, the application is listed as being “inside development zone” on the PA website when the developers themselves list the application as being both within and outside development zones (ODZ).

And although application is on the PA’s geoportal, the link to the application details is broken. But the full details and plans presented so far can be found on the eApps application.

Application details identifying the area as within development zones
Application details identifying the area as within development zones
Front Harsien ODZ calls for inclusion of all Zonqor in Indawar Park

In a reaction to the application by Sadeen Group, Front Ħarsien ODZ which had organised the protest against the proposed development in Zonqor two years ago announced that it will be formally objecting to the application to develop a university campus, part of which is located outside development zones and on land earmarked in the local plan for a national park.

Front Ħarsien ODZ described the  project as being in breach of  the local plan which identifies the area for inclusion in a national park and the SPED which obliges developers to consider land within development zones before considering ODZ sites.

“We are calling on the government to include the land presently earmarked for a massive car park, student halls and sports facilities in the Inwadar park. It simply does not make sense to turn an area immediately next to the Inwadar Park in to a construction and excavation site”. It also highlighted the possible negative ecological impact on a Special Protection Area in the immediate vicinity of the proposed development. The organisation reiterated its commitment to participate in the planning process and to continue mobilising the public against the project.



James Debono is MaltaToday's chief reporter on environment, planning and land use issues, ...
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