Moviment Graffitti gives lukewarm welcome to new Manoel Island Masterplan

Moviment Graffitti welcomes reversal of plan to build hotel, mall and casino but says MIDI's 'abysmal' record of breaking contractual conditions with impunity gives it reason for concern

The historic Fort Manoel on Manoel Island
The historic Fort Manoel on Manoel Island

Moviment Graffitti has given a lukewarm welcome to the new masterplan for Manoel Island.

The left-wing NGO, which played a strong role in Kamp Emergenza Ambjent’s effort to regain access to the public coastline, reiterated its stance that on principle no commercial development should take place on the islet. The land was granted on a 99-year lease to the Midi consori

tium, the Tigné Point developers. Graffitti said it noted “significant improvements over the Masterplan presented earlier this year, evidence that non-partisan movements can achieve tangible victories against big and powerful interests.”
Midi plc, which was granted a 99-year concession over a large part of Manoel Island in 2000, earlier this year presented a masterplan for its redevelopment – which included a hotel at Fort Manoel, a shopping complex and a casino-hotel at the historic

18th century Lazaretto, retail outlets and luxury low-rise apartments, a helipad and a superyacht marina, while also taking over the foreshore together with the current swimming spot beneath the fort, to build a water taxi pontoon. These proposals were later removed following public outcry.

Gzira residents and activists had opposed the development, arguing that Manoel Island should be returned to the public and turned into a national park.

“Manoel Island should serve as a stark reminder of how senseless it is to give away public land for private interests,” Moviment Graffiti said. “This area was given to Midi through a bipartisan agreement in Parliament many years ago. Public access was then illegally blocked for 17 years and MIDI will now be reaping profits from several structures built on public land, and a hotel set in a historical building, the Lazzaretto.

“The trend of giving away public land to private companies continues unabated till this day. One such case was the recent transfer of the ITS building to the DB Group, where a horrendous project with disastrous impacts on residents and the environment is being proposed.”

But the Manoel Island issue also showed how non-partisan movements can achieve tangible victories, said the group.

“After a month-long struggle last year, the Local Council alongside residents and organisations and individuals involved in Kamp Emerġenza Ambjent forced MIDI to open public access. Moreover, last April, residents, the Local Council and Kamp Emerġenza Ambjent had expressed their alarm over a Masterplan unveiled by MIDI. It was emphasised that plans for a hotel on Fort Manoel, a shopping mall, a casino, a helipad and a pontoon for water taxis on Manoel Island are completely unacceptable.”

The left-wing NGO greeted the omission of these features from the new masterplan with trepidation, mistrustful of the consortium’s longterm plans.

“Moviment Graffitti notes with satisfaction that, so far, this kind of development does not feature in the new masterplan. But, considering the abysmal record of MIDI with breaking contract provisions and being allowed to get away with it, it should be ensured that this intense development never takes place, and that public access is guaranteed at all times.” 

 

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