No height limits in MEPA’s new policy on tall buildings

Landmark building to become a definer for localities under new tall buildings policy

Michael Farrugia (second from right) with MEPA chairman Vince Cassar
Michael Farrugia (second from right) with MEPA chairman Vince Cassar

No height limit is being imposed in a new policy on tall buildings.

A new MEPA policy for the evaluation of design of tall and medium  buildings issued for public consultation, indicates the possible  locations  of these buildings and sets criteria for evaluation of permits.

The locations where these tall buildings can take place are urban commercial centres and urban areas where height limits are already set at four storeys.

Locations where heights are already over 25 metres are being excluded. But committed areas where permits have been issued, will be retained for possible new applications.

This leaves the following areas: Marsa, Gzira, the Tigné peninsula - which includes a part of Sliema - Paceville, and Qawra. Pembroke is being reserved as a site for "prestigious development" and will be only considered after all other sites are considered.

Medium-rise building of up to 10 floors will take place in the same areas and other localities, mainly Marsascala, Marsa and area between Gzira and St Julian's, to be identified in local plans. They will be allowed only on 5,000 square metre sites.

Tall buildings are not to be allowed in Gozo, outside-development zone ridges, and urban conservation areas, and must be surrounded by streets on four streets. Villa areas also excluded.

"The aim is to create a prestigious corporate image for the Maltese islands," architect Joe Scalpello, a member of working group, said.

The policy does not indicate specific sites. Neither does it cap the number of buildings. It does not even set a height limit for these buildings. Half the site occupied by tall buildings has to be retained as an open space. Impact of shadowing and micro-climates of these tall buildings has yet to be assessed.

A tall building is defined as twice the statuary limitation set in local plans, or more than 10 floors. A medium-rise is a building which is higher than statuary limitation but not more than 10 floors.

Long distance views will also have to be protected, and social impact assessments will be mandatory.

Parliamentary secretary for planning Michael Farrugia emphasised the role of landmark building, comparing these to churches which define localities. "This is the concept which we are presenting: if you look at Portomaso, it identifies the location. We want to create a base for prestigious corporations in Malta."

Projects like Gemxija Holdings's Mistra Heights will be excluded by this policy, Farrugia said. He also said that the policy will improve the present situation where tall buildings are developed in a vacuum. "The policy is not meant to appease environmentalists or developers," Farrugia said.

No limit is being imposed on the number of storeys, but photomontages will be required to assess impact of such heights.

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