St Julian’s: 33-storey Xuereb tower heading for approval

Traffic congestion was one of the main reasons given by 71% of St Julian’s residents for opposing the project

Photomontages showing a view of the proposed 33-storey
Photomontages showing a view of the proposed 33-storey

The Planning Authority is set to approve a 33-storey tower proposed by Paul Xuereb’s PX Lettings, but intends to make the permit conditional on the presentation of a green travel plan outlining how car trips during peak hours can be reduced by 40%.

The development is being recommended for approval by the case officer but a final decision will be taken by the board on 9 February.

Traffic studies show that car trips will increase by 177 during the peak morning hour, and by 156 during the evening’s peak hour.

The green travel plan, which would seek to encourage alternatives to private transport, should include an implementation programme enforced by a GTP monitoring officer engaged and paid by the developer.

Traffic studies have shown that the project will have a major impact on only one of the four junctions assessed, namely the one where Triq is-Swieqi passes through an existing tunnel under the Triq M.A. Vassalli arterial road, which is described as a gateway to Paceville.

In order to mitigate the potential impact of the traffic generated by the tower development on this junction in future years, the estimated private car trip generation from this major development will need to be reduced by 40% during peak morning and evening periods, according to traffic assessments.

In fact, Transport Malta only issued its clearance for the development on condition that an official green travel plan “is put in place by the applicant prior to the issuance of any compliance certificate”.

The case officer is also recommending the inclusion of this condition in the permit.

To make this condition enforceable, a public deed, including a tripartite legal agreement between the Planning Authority, Transport Malta and the applicant, is being proposed.

The 33-storey tower is being recommended for approval despite a social impact assessment showing 70.8% of residents in St Julian’s and Paceville “disagree” with the proposed development. Only 15.6% “agree”, whilst 13.6 say the project “makes no difference” to them.

The main reason for widespread opposition to the project is that Malta, and Paceville in particular, are already overly built and developed, and that Paceville is already too densely populated and characterised by traffic congestion – the development will make the situation worse while residents have suffered construction fatigue due to the long running building works in the area.

But the case officer is recommending approval, arguing that the project would regenerate the site in question into a landmark building, serving as a gateway to the prime entertainment hub of the Maltese islands.

The proposal is also deemed to conform to the Strategic Plan for Environment and Development since the area in question is designated as an entertainment priority area.

The proposed development consists of the excavation of six basement levels for 259 parking spaces and retail shops and an overlying 33-storey high tower.

The project will include 11 floors of office space, with a total floorspace of 7,461 square metres, a hotel with 11 suites at levels 17 and 18, 58 serviced apartments between level 19 and level 30, a restaurant at level 31, and services in the two top levels.

The project would also include 1,254 square meters of proposed open space.