MIDI’s 17-storey tower at Tigné approved after transfer from Manoel Island

Planning Authority green-lights new 17-storey tower at Tigné Point after floor-space was transferred from reduced development at Manoel Island project

The Planning Authority has approved a new 17-storey tower at Tigné Point after MIDI plc was allowed to transfer 8,000sq.m of developable space from the Manoel Island project to Tigné. 

But even after this amount of land is transferred, the project still exceeds its 132,055sq.m floorspace limit set in the original 1999 deed, by 204 sq.m.

The project was approved by nine votes against two, with NGO representative Annick Bonello and board member Gilmour Camilleri, an economist recently appointed to the board, voting against. 

Planning Authority board chairman Vince Cassar. who ultimately voted for the project, had expressed discomfort on having to vote on a project in the absence of government approval of the deviations from the 1999 deed.

But MIDI’s Mark Portelli insisted that the deviations were permitted in the deed, which foresaw an “adjustment mechanism” for an increase in ground rent whenever floor space thresholds are surpassed. PA executive chairman Martin Saliba agreed that a decision by the board would not be in breach of the original deed. The PA’s planning directorate said there was no legal need for government approval for transferring land from one area of the project to another. 

The tower will have four basement levels for 81 car spaces, rise to 17 storeys, seven of which will be receded, and include 63 residential units. The height is the same as that of the adjacent Fort Cambridge development, and comes with 7,000sq.m of landscaping around the restored Garden Battery, which will be open to the public.

In this way IDI has been allowed to carry out a 9,000sq.m development by transferring 8,000sq.m of floor space it chose not to develop on Manoel Island, despite having nearly used all its allocated floor space at Tigné Point. Amendments to the Manoel Island masterplan, approved in March 2019, had reduced MIDI’s available floor-space in the Gzira project by 8,000sq.m.

Despite the decrease in floor space, the Manoel Island project still involves an increase in the number of residential units from 415 to 610 when compared to the 1999 masterplan. The project includes a 5-star hotel inside the Lazzaretto complex, an 8,449sq.m retail complex, a marina for 183 berths and 3,695sq.m allocated for sports facilities.

Annick Bonello also raised questions on the shadowing of the new building on the promenade and the coastline, lamenting the absence of studies on this aspect.  MIDI insisted that no such studies were necessary, because the difference created by the new building was not significant than foreseen in the 1999 development, which a included a 23-storey building that was never completed. 

EIA coordinator Paul Gauci said the ERA had not requested a shadow study, and referred to studies for the proposed 40-storey hotel at Fort Cambridge, which showed the impact of shadowing in the area being directed towards the sea. 

Jonathan Orlando from the planning directorate also claimed that a social impact assessment for the project was unnecessary, going as far as to claim that most SIAs being conducted are “useless”.

Gilmour Camilleri justified his vote against the project because of the absence of these studies.

Sliema mayor Anthony Chircop, who voted for the project, said the tower respected the skyline of the area but expressed concern at the lack of a skyline policy for the entire Tigné area, to prevent future developments from puncturing the skyline. On its part MIDI committed itself that it would not seek any further development in the area.

Mark Portelli announced that a €229,023 planning gain from the project will be allocated to a project in Qui-Si-Sana administered by the Sliema local council.