Marsaskala council set to move in ‘treeless’ part of St Anne garden

Marsaskala mayor Mario Calleja has confirmed that the town’s local council will issue a tender for the construction of a new local council office in St Anne’s garden

The local council’s office is being proposed at the back of St Anne Garden
The local council’s office is being proposed at the back of St Anne Garden

Marsaskala mayor Mario Calleja has confirmed that the town’s local council will issue a tender for the construction of a new local council office in St Anne’s garden, which the mayor said will “meet European standards”.

When asked whether this will deprive residents of an open space, Calleja told MaltaToday that the new offices would be developed on a paved area at the back of the garden.

“I can assure you that not a single tree will be removed and the garden will also be embellished… it will be located in an area where children used to put poles to play football.”

Asked whether the new office will be financed by Sadeen Group – the Jordanian company which is to build the American University of Malta campus in Marsaskala – the mayor replied that the council has enough money for this project, some of it deriving from savings and from the €60,000 Planning Authority’s Urban Improvement Fund.

He added that any additional financial assistance from Sadeen Group can only come in the form of a “planning gain” imposed by the Planning Authority when it issues a permit.

He also excluded the development of private facilities in the new building, insisting that apart from council facilities the new building will only include a room to serve as a polyclinic. 

The relocation of the office is being opposed by Nationalist councillor Charlot Cassar, whom the mayor accuses of political motivations. But Cassar insists that “not enough commitment has been applied to finding an alternative solution to grabbing from the little open space left in Marsaskala”. 

“As a local council and as residents, we are guardians of our locality and have an obligation to protect our heritage and safeguard it for future generations. Building in a public garden violates this fundamental principle and a lot of residents find it unacceptable”. 

Villa Mondello was proposed as an alternative by PN councillor Charlot Cassar
Villa Mondello was proposed as an alternative by PN councillor Charlot Cassar

Cassar is calling on the local council to set an example by considering the use of old abandoned buildings such as Villa Mondello, a stately historical building, to provide Marsaskala with dignified offices for its council. 

“Having a local council office with a cultural connection to the town is more prestigious than some irrelevant out-of-the-box lego structure, and will surely be far more appreciated by the local community”. 

Villa Mondello is a listed building which used to be a school in the 1930’s but is now abandoned. The mayor has shot down the idea by pointing out that the building would not be accessible for disabled persons.

Cassar insists that Villa Mondello is just one of the possibilities which can be considered.

“There are definitely other options available around Marsaskala if we stop looking at the issue stubbornly and open our eyes to the other unutilised buildings”.

He also wants the local community to be involved in the site selection for the council office, something which would enable the community “ to participate in the selection of the building they would like to see as home for the local council that represents their interests.”

Last month MaltaToday revealed that the government, through Projects Malta, was actively considering the development of a car park in the same garden but the project was shot down by both Mayor Calleja and the PN councillor. Plans to build an administrative building for the council at the back of the garden near Triq Santa Tereza, had already been announced by the mayor in 2011 along plans for a car park. 

The proposed car park in St Anne’s garden had been discarded under the previous administration. Replying to a parliamentary question by Labour MP Owen Bonnici in 2011, Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi had replied that the council had abandoned its plans for a car park on the same site “because the project was not well received by residents.”  

When contacted in 2011 by MaltaToday, Mayor Calleja gave other reasons why the project was stopped. “We decided to put the project on hold because for the moment we have too much on our plate as our energies are absorbed in a number of other ongoing major projects.”  

Calleja insisted that it was always the council’s intention to consult residents. “In fact, that was the whole point of issuing a call for expressions of interest which was to be followed by public consultation.”

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