Manoel Island developers shave off built-up area and land reclamation

New MIDI Masterplan for Manoel Island contemplates a significant increase in public open spaces

The Manoel Island masterplan (February 2021)
The Manoel Island masterplan (February 2021)

MIDI plc has submitted a revised masterplan for the restoration and development of Manoel Island to the Planning Authority (PA) and a revised Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to the Environmental Resources Authority (ERA).

The revised masterplan contemplates that the footprint of the new buildings to be developed on Manoel Island will be scaled down from 26% to approximately 10% of the site area, and the gross floor area of the new buildings will total 55,000sq.m compared to the 95,000sq.m as contemplated in the deed of emphyteusis entered into with the Maltese government.

“The revised masterplan aims to create a more sustainable development, which boasts 192,000sq.m of open spaces, of which 175,000sq.m is public open space, equivalent to twenty-two football pitches,” the company said in a statement.

The original Manoel Island masterplan from 2018
The original Manoel Island masterplan from 2018

This represents an increase of approximately 20% when compared to the deed and includes two significant open spaces, namely an 80,000sq.m Glacis Park surrounding Fort Manoel and a 35,000sq.m open space at the entrance of the island.

The new plan was welcomed by Gżira mayor Conrad Borg Manche, who also serves as chairperson of the Manoel Island Foundation set up following an agreement between the council and the company.

A new Masterplan for Manoel Island has been submitted to the Planing Authority. This Masterplan improvement resulted...

Posted by Conrad Borg Manché on Thursday, 18 February 2021

It was the revocation of the permit for the master plan issued in 2019, following a crowd funded appeal by NGOs Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar and Inħobbu l-Gżira, which sent the project back to the drawing board. However, the company insisted that the revisions were the result of archaeological finds.

“The decision to revise the masterplan is a result of the site investigations carried out, during the last twenty-four months, under the supervision of an independent archaeologist approved by the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage (SCH),” MIDI CEO Mark Portelli said.

“The areas investigated were highlighted in the Cultural Heritage Report which formed part of the original EIA, as archaeologically sensitive requiring further investigation. The investigations established that a large part of the site, which was previously earmarked for development, is of archaeological importance. This prompted us to draw up a new masterplan for Manoel Island.”

Apart from the reduction in the area to be developed, the revised masterplan does not contemplate the reclamation of the sea area immediately in front of the Gzira promenade. “A decision was taken to eliminate the land reclamation, as contemplated in the deed, in order to reduce the impact of the development on the marine environment and the Gzira community,” Portelli said.

The revised masterplan contemplates a complete overhaul of the existing yacht marina in order to provide safe berthing for yachts of varying size. However, protection will be provided by a floating breakwater to mitigate the environmental impact associated with developing a solid breakwater. The existing slipway, which is situated on the north side of the island and used by local enthusiasts, will be upgraded as part of the development.

A commercial component in the revised masterplan has now been designed around the Cattle Shed and the Customs House to complement the new public area which is being provided in the heart of the development. 

The former Lazzaretto hospital will be used for mixed use and hospitality purposes. The restoration of the heritage buildings is estimated to cost over €40 million, which includes the works already undertaken to restore Fort Manoel to its former glory.  

MIDI will develop sports facilities which will revert back to Government for the benefit of the local community. The facilities include a full size football pitch for Gzira United FC and a Bocci Club. 

Mr Portelli added that “The Manoel Island Foundation, which was set-up by the Gzira Local Council and MIDI, will continue to act as guardian in line with the Guardianship Deed, thus ensuring that the public interest is safeguarded at all times, in particular with respect to access to the foreshore, protection of the heritage buildings, the provision of public open spaces and building heights.”   

“As a responsible developer MIDI will continue to work closely and transparently with all stakeholders, by listening, engaging, and providing updates throughout the project, thereby ensuring the delivery of significant benefits to the community for the long term.”