Paceville – from problem to premium

Special problems need special solutions. And in the case of Paceville, the key word is ‘Integrated’ • Gavin Gulia

Calls for a major overhaul of the Paceville area have been the order of the day for decades
Calls for a major overhaul of the Paceville area have been the order of the day for decades

The Paceville Master plan prepared by Mott MacDonald and Broadway Malyan for the Planning Authority sets out to “develop an Integrated Development and Transport Framework for Paceville to accommodate future development which will act as a catalyst for regeneration and meet the requirements of the Planning Authority as well as existing and future residents and visitors”.

Tackling the three main areas of urban planning, infrastructure and transport, the plan takes a holistic and integrated approach aimed at transforming Malta’s party hub into a prime coastal  location.

Arguably Malta’s top entertainment hotspot for decades, Paceville attracts hundreds if not thousands of locals and foreign patrons, mostly the younger generations, to the scores of bars, clubs and discos lining its neon-lit streets. From multinational groups of teenage language students to future brides or grooms with their entourage out for a hens or bachelor party, PV continues to be the place most frequented by the fun-loving crowd, especially at weekends.

This popularity comes at a price, especially for the residents of Paceville and the neighbouring areas, who have to endure the negative side effects of this periodic invasion, without enjoying any of the economic benefits generated by the influx. Traffic and parking issues have been plaguing this area for a very long time. Keeping the streets clean is another major challenge, in spite of the best efforts by local councils, central government agencies and the business community. And, although generally-speaking the Paceville neighbourhoods remain safe and secure, the occasional alcohol-fuelled punch-up is not unknown.

These problems are compounded by the fact that Paceville is located right next to Malta’s tourism ‘Golden Mile’ of St George’s Bay, Portomaso and St Julian’s Bay with their 5-star resorts, upmarket venues and gourmet restaurants. In typical Maltese fashion, you can hardly tell where one locality actually starts and the other ends, as they merge into each other to form a whole agglomeration. As a result of rapid, organic, often unregulated growth over the past 50 years or so, the area has become an architectural patchwork where the best and (some would say) the worst that Malta has to offer are just metres apart.  

Calls for a major overhaul of the Paceville area have been the order of the day for decades. The many stakeholders, including business owners, town administrators, sectoral associations, environmental NGOs, permanent residents and others, have all voiced their pleas for years, asking the government and the pertinent authorities to look at the special issues faced by this area, issues that due to their size, complexity and specificity, are unique to this part of Malta, and nowhere else. 

The Malta Tourism Authority has been on both sides of the equation – on the receiving end of complaints and requests for interventions, mostly from our partners in the travel trade who (rightly) come to us with their problems, and as the originator of such calls to action, often taking the bull by the horns to bring about change. But, although it is true that any improvement, no matter how small, is better than none at all, it is equally true that no isolated initiative, no matter how positive or laudable, is going to provide the ultimate solution.

Special problems need special solutions. And in the case of Paceville, the key word is ‘Integrated’.

Anything less than a holistic plan that takes into account all the variables at once, will result in a set of micro interventions that may eliminate some of the symptoms, but not the cause. In the worst case scenario, a fragmented approach can end up being more harmful than beneficial: like the cartoon character trying to plug a leak in his bathroom wall by sticking his finger in the hole, only to see another leaking hole opening up, which he manages to plug with his other hand, then another hole appears, and another, until he runs out of limbs. 

It is for this reason that we at MTA welcome the Paceville Master plan launched earlier this month. It is bold and ambitious, and yet founded in reality, and certainly doable. Perhaps for the first time, all the various issues that are faced by Paceville have been clearly identified, as was its huge potential for development and sustainable growth. Not fragmented one-off projects creating more urban islands whilst leaving the surrounding scenario virtually unchanged, but a truly holistic approach on a regional basis aimed at making a quality leap forward. 

‘Looking at the bigger picture’, as the Master plan promotional video suggests, should be the guiding principle mapping Paceville’s future – a vision that is currently open for public consultation. If realised, this vision will transform Paceville from its current state to a premium coastal location, benefitting residents, visitors and the tourism business community for many years to come.

Gavin Gulia is chairman of the Malta Tourism Authority

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