Massive three-tower high-rise in Ta’ Giorni won’t have EIA

Environment watchdog has exempted a high-rise project on Ta’ Giorni from an environment impact assessment or study on social impacts

Although the site lies outside the Paceville high-rise zone it is eligible for medium-rise development according to the Floor Area Ratio policy, which is applicable to sites over 4,000sq.m
Although the site lies outside the Paceville high-rise zone it is eligible for medium-rise development according to the Floor Area Ratio policy, which is applicable to sites over 4,000sq.m

A high-rise in Ta’ Giorni will be exempt from an environmental impact assessment, after the proposal was screened by the Environment and Resources Authority.

EIAs consist of voluminous reports assessing various aspects of a project ranging from the social, cultural and economic impacts to geological and ecological ones, integrated in a holistic report.

The project is set on a footprint of 5,700sq.m and consists of a gross floor area of 59,200sq.m.

According to law, all projects with gross floor areas over 30,000sq.m fall under the EIA rules. But the ERA, which oversees the EIA process, has the power to issue an exemption after screening the project development statement submitted by the developers.

The massive project set on the site of the Palms wedding hall in Ta’ Giorni will include 165 apartments organised into three towers: one solitary 13-storey tower and two 12 and 15-storey towers joined together at level 10. The project is being proposed by landowner Andrew Borg.

While recognizing the visual impact of the project, the ERA passed the buck to the PA by concluding that this should be “considered directly through the development consent mechanism.”

The project also includes 460 car parking spaces in three underground parking garage levels, a commercial area on the second underground level, a chapel and central water feature. The site has agricultural land to its east and south sides, located less than 50m to the Balluta valley, a Level 2 Area of Ecological Importance. The towers will also be just 120m away from the scheduled Villa Blanche, Villa Priuli and Villa Cassar Torregiani.

Even though no permit is required for uprooting, ERA is recommending that a mature orange grove on site is transplanted instead of uprooted and destroyed.

A staggering 150,000 cubic metres of inert waste will be generated during demolition and excavation works. But ERA claims that this amount of waste “is not considered to be significant as long as the waste is managed in accordance with the Waste Management Regulations.” No reference is made to the geological impact on the site of the development.

The ERA also said airborne dust from demolition and construction was not considered to be significant “in view of the temporary nature and short-term duration of the construction phase.” Noise and vibrations levels during the demolition, excavation and construction phases are also “likely to have a short-term and temporary impact,” ERA said.

The project will increase the number of average daily car trips by about 549 vehicles, over and above the 22,300 vehicles at Junction 1. Once again ERA claims that “no significant impacts are being envisaged during the operational phase in relation to air quality.”

The exemption from the EIA, simply because the environmental impact is deemed not to be significant, would mean that the project will not be submitted to the same scrutiny as other high-rise projects like Town Square in Sliema.

Moreover it will be up to the Planning Authority to require studies assessing the visual, social and economic impacts of the project. In its report, ERA completely ignores the social impact of the project.

This approach to EIA studies stems from the demerger of the Environment and planning arms of the former Malta Planning and Environment Authority which is leading to a less holistic assessment of projects.

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