[WATCH] Architectural firm proposes replacing towns’ state schools with public spaces

Maniera Group has proposed demolishing existing schools in town centres and relocating them outside development boundaries

Architect Colin Zammit is proposing the reconstruction of schools outside development zones
Architect Colin Zammit is proposing the reconstruction of schools outside development zones

Maniera Group, a leading architectural firm whose director Colin Zammit was involved in the drafting of the Planning Authority’s policies regulating urban development, has come up with a controversial solution for Malta’s traffic and urban liveability problems: demolishing existing schools in town centres and relocating them outside development boundaries. 

The proposal is made in a promotional video which was posted on Facebook and viewed by 17,000 viewers over the past days.

The company claims that its proposal is aimed at reducing traffic problems and creating more pedestrian and liveable areas in the core of Maltese towns. 

On Facebook Colin Zammit, whose past projects include the A3 towers in Paola, describes a proposal which includes the reconstruction of schools outside development zones as “my firm’s preliminary green idea to counteract the building boom of which I’m part of”.

Maniera’s video proposes Mosta, where the company is based, as a pilot project where existing schools are relocated to an unspecified ODZ location. According to the video, existing schools are said to occupy 19,000 square metres of land, which takes up the area of some four football grounds.

Most of the 4-minute video is focused on the creation of new open spaces instead of old schools and government buildings in urban centres but when it refers to the relocation of old schools it clearly states that these should be relocated outside development zones.

The video proposes the excavation of 18 metres underground to create space for 4,000 cars under the newly created gardens and pedestrian areas. 

The project is proposed as a Private Public Partnership through which the private sector would benefit from the income generated by the car parks and entertainment facilities like restaurants.  It also mentions the possibility of further excavation under the car parks to construct stations for a new underground transport network.

Zammit was one of several architects appointed in a committee responsible for drafting the Development Control Design Policy guidelines of 2015 which has effectively contributed to more development in urban areas by favouring more flexibility in determining building heights. 

Under the previous administration two ODZ schools were constructed: a 22,830 sq. m. facility at Ta’ Zokrija (Mosta), and another school with a site area of 15,940 sq. m. at Ta’ Karwija (Kirkop). The South Malta Local Plan allows new schools that replace old ones to be located outside the development limits, but such schools can only be constructed along the parameter of the ODZ boundary.  

The present government initially also wanted to relocate the existing St Paul’s Bay primary school to an ODZ site in the vicinity of the Salini park, but this decision was later reversed. To rebut criticism by the Archbishop on the Zonqor University, of which 18,000 sq.m will be constructed on ODZ land, the government lashed out at a proposal by the Dominican order to relocate St Albert College to an ODZ area in Ghaxaq as foreseen in the local plan.

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