Portomaso first proposed for land reclamation a few months after 2013 election

Land reclamation was proposed by Labour leader Joseph Muscat before the general election

Land reclamation at Portomaso resurfaced in the draft master plan for the Paceville area
Land reclamation at Portomaso resurfaced in the draft master plan for the Paceville area

Land reclamation at Portomaso was among the 21 land reclamation proposals made to the Government Property Division in December 2013, MaltaToday has learnt. 

This was confirmed by Planning Authority (PA) officials during last week’s meeting of Parliament’s Environment, Planning and Development committee convened to discuss the Paceville master plan.

Land reclamation was proposed by Labour leader Joseph Muscat before the general election and a call for expression of interests in land reclamation was issued in September 2013, just 5 months after the new government was elected.

The government was originally committed to hold a public exhibition on all the proposals made to the Government Property Division but three years later all the proposals made remain under wraps.  

The government later announced that it was working on a shortlist of projects, which also never materialised. 

Land reclamation at Portomaso resurfaced in the draft master plan for the Paceville area which was presented by global management and engineering consultants Mott Mac Donald. 

But last week a PA spokesperson confirmed that submissions made to government by the owners of Portomaso, Tumas Group, for further development were passed on to the global planning consultants Mott Macdonald, whose vision for Paceville was carried out after “analysing this information incorporated a land reclamation option in the master plan”. 

The Paceville master plan, unveiled last week by the PA, does not exclude another tower at Portomaso but expressed a preference for coastal development – including land reclamation – where development may still rise to a maximum of 15 floors.   

With a floorspace of 234,000 square meters Portomaso is by far the largest of the 9 sites identified for new development in the Paceville master plan. Development at Portomaso accounts for 20% of the additional 1.17 million additional floorspace proposed in the master plan.  

According to the same master plan the site will have a built up footprint of 38,700 square metres, with photomontages in the Paceville master plan showing the new tower on reclaimed land that would obscure the classic view of the Dragonaro Casino from Sliema. The development will take place next to a marine protected area rich in Posidonia meadows.  

Now it turns out that land reclamation was already proposed to government just months after the election of the new Labour government.  Moreover in November 2013 an appeal’s tribunal appointed by the new administration reversed a 2012 PA decision to turn down 50 new villas in an artificial lagoon area in an area previously designated as a protected ecological zone. Tumas Group is a shareholder in the Electrogas consortium along with Gasan Group who jointly own GEM Holdings. Both groups have benefitted from new policies on high-rise by having permits approved in both Sliema and Mriehel. Mriehel was included in the list of localities by the government by stealth, after the conclusion of a public consultation on the Floor Area Ratio policy.  

Land reclamation needs parliamentary approval 

According to Maltese law all land reclamation proposals involving the transfer of the seabed to private interests need the approval of parliament.  

This is because the public domain act proposed by the opposition and approved by parliament in May 2016 stipulates that any area of the seabed proposed for land reclamation has to be declassified first because the seabed will automatically become part of the public domain. 

This means that there will be a public notice and debate on any project to reclaim land. Moreover the first 15 meters of reclaimed land must be recognised as part of the public domain even after land reclamation takes place. 

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