SmartCity master plan proposals ‘a land grab’, Din L-Art Helwa says

Environmental NGO Din l-Art Helwa has referred to proposed changes to the SmartCity master plan as a 'land grab', calling on the government to revoke development permits if contract obligations are not met

Photo: SmartCity.ae
Photo: SmartCity.ae

Environmental NGO Din l-Art Helwa has referred to reported proposals for “radical” changes to the SmartCity master plan as a “land grab”, and called on the government to revoke development permits if contract obligations are not met.

The Times of Malta reported this week that the SmartCity developers – which include the government – formally asked the Planning Authority for “radical” changes to the master place regulating the area.

According to the plans seen by the newspaper, SmartCity Malta Ltd wants to “almost double the height limitation at various points, going as high as 68 metres”.

Din l-Art Helwa said that the government in 2006 had put forward the SmartCity projected as a strategic investment which would transform the country and bring it into the world of High Tech development, creating some 5,600 new jobs in Malta. The NGO lamented that in view of the fact that much of the land at the time formed part of a derelict industrial estate, its concern was muted and restricted to the impact and architectural merit of the project.

“We now are given to understand that the jobs have failed to materialise and the project may be reduced to a speculative land grab, where the speculators may make huge financial gains to the detriment of the people of Malta who are the ultimate owners of the land,” Din l-Art Helwa said.

The Malta Developers Association said yesterday that the requested changes are a radical departure from the original purpose of the project.
“While that vision could have justified the very low price with which public land was transferred to the developers of SmartCity, the proposed changes in the master plan render the project another real estate development in competition with private developers who pay very high prices to purchase developable sites,” the MDA said.

Din l-Art Helwa said that, should a change of use be required, then the area of seafront land should be retendered after a due planning process as to what the best use of the land should be and whether the footprint should be reduced.

“The principle of using government land for speculative purposes should be stopped,” the NGO reiterated.

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