Farsons rejects PA’s quibbling over business park masterplan

Farsons says its plan indicating how the business park would sit on a site in total measuring 69,000m2 is already comprehensive and complete masterplan

Simonds Farsons Cisks plc is challenging the Planning Authority’s demands for a masterplan for the area where the beverages giant is seeking the green light for a €40 million business park in Mriehel.

The producers of Cisk lager were stunned last week when the PA board, its highest decision-making body, signalled it would not allow the project to take place without a masterplan for the area.

PA board members were asked to indicate their voting intention in what was a preliminary ‘show vote’ after some members, most of which are government-appointed, said Farsons had not complied with a masterplan for the area.

“The issue of a masterplan was raised during the first hearing held in October. The Company submitted a plan indicating how the business park would sit on a site in total measuring 69,000m2,” Farsons said in a statement.

“Areas covering this site are occupied by the Company’s operations, as approved through the necessary planning permits, and would also house the proposed business park. Given that no other developments are contemplated, the overall plan submitted is therefore a comprehensive and complete master plan for the use of the said site. Therefore, the statement issued by the PA that the Company opted not to submit a master plan is not correct.”

Farsons also said the PA’s assertion that the Planning Directorate – which is the case officers’ arm in the PA – recommended approval in spite of the “project not being in accordance with planning policies” is also factually incorrect. “Referring to the proposed height, the development report clearly states that ‘the intended height of the development is also deemed acceptable’ and that the site ‘complies with all the above-mentioned criteria’.”

Last week, the PA deferred its decision on the planning directorate’s recommendation for the approval of the Trident Business Park, over concerns on the lack of a masterplan. Seven members indicated they would vote against the planning officers’ recommendation to approve the project, while five, including PA board chairman Vince Cassar, indicated they would vote in favour.

The PA board members said the business park did not follow the provisions of the local plan and neither the Floor Area Ratio (FAR) policies “and expressed a preliminary opinion that they do not agree with the recommendation of the directorate. The final formal vote on the application will be taken at a future sitting.”

The €40 million development is earmarked to complement the rehabilitation of the Old Brewhouse, to restore and convert the industrial space and include a visitor centre with supporting food and other retail outlets, flexible workspace and additional amenities.

Another issue of concern among the PA board members was the proposed building heights which fell foul of planning policies in the area.

Mriehel is already one of the zones identified for high-rise developments, with a four-tower project by the Tumas and Gasan business groups already approved.

“The board of Simonds Farsons Cisk plc will be meeting immediately to consider the implications of this unexpected decision by the Planning Authority Board,” Farsons said in a statement.

The planning directorate originally recommended the approval of the business park along Mdina Road, that consisted of international Grade A offices with landscaped courtyards and multi-level car parking facilities. Planned for completion by the end of 2020, the project, designed by Ian Ritchie Architects Limited, with the support of Malta-based engineers, TBA Periti, was to have over 18,000 square metres of offices.