Pembroke towers will cast a long wintry shadow on housing estate

The PA’s case officer report recommending the approval of the project acknowledges that the tower’s shadows “would definitely be of high significance during specific hours during the day”

An artistic rendition of the proposed db Towers in Pembroke
An artistic rendition of the proposed db Towers in Pembroke

Winter will be a darker season in Pembroke’s housing estates if the db group’s 38-storey tower and 17-storey hotel are approved by the Planning Authority on 20 September.

The PA’s case officer report recommending the approval of the project, located a few metres from Pembroke’s residential area, acknowledges that the project’s shadows “would definitely be of high significance during specific hours during the day”.

The report refers to shadowing studies included in the environmental impact assessment (EIA), which show the tall buildings casting a long shadow on the housing estate particularly during “the early and late hours of the day during the winter months”.

How the db tower shadow will fall on the residential area  on the first day of winter at 9am
How the db tower shadow will fall on the residential area on the first day of winter at 9am

According to these studies while the residential areas to the north of the site would be affected in the mornings, the hotels to the east, southeast, and south will be affected in the afternoons.

The EIA included studies of the shadows of the buildings in the development during different parts of the day and the year.

The studies show that in December the shadowing on the residential area will persist until noon, while by 5pm the towers will cast a shadow over the Natura 2000 site and reach the Pembroke Reverse Osmosis Plant.

The proposed project is located across the street from a residential area in apparent breach of the Floor Area Ratio policy, which states that tall buildings should be located away from residential priority areas as they “are naturally alien to these low-rise, compact locations.”

How the db tower shadow will fall on the residential area in Pembroke on the first day of spring at 9am
How the db tower shadow will fall on the residential area in Pembroke on the first day of spring at 9am

The case officer refers to this policy but simply concludes that “the development is seen as a landmark building in a locality (Paceville) identified by the FAR (floor-area ratio) document as a designated appropriate location for tall building due to its predominance in tourism and leisure uses”.

Outcome of vote uncertain

These considerations are expected to have a bearing on the vote of individual board members on a project which has a bearing on the quality of life of residents living in a Labour leaning area.

Interviewed by MaltaToday in the aftermath of a protest by Pembroke residents in May, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat had hinted at a “good compromise” to ensure that the project is “done sensibly and in a way which respected the neighbourhood”.

But so far the developers have only made small changes, like an eight-metre reduction in the height of the tower and a removal of a floor from the hotel building.

While the PA’s planning directorate is fully backing the project, sources in the authority confirmed that the outcome of the vote cannot be taken for granted.

Although the Environment and Resources Authority has not objected to the project, its chairman Victor Axiak is known for having a mind of his own. In June a spokesperson for the ERA confirmed that Axiak will only decide on how to vote “after all the information related to this case has been heard by the board.”

The same applies to Planning Board chairman Vince Cassar, who had voted against the Townsquare project in Sliema due to its excessive dimensions. The PA chairman had also voted against the 32-storey Mercury House development in St Julian’s.

Of particular interest for residents will be the vote of government representative Clayton Bartolo, the Labour MP, who may find himself at odds with Labour mayor Dean Hili who has reiterated his opposition to the project, and Opposition representative Marthese Portelli. The latter has already expressed strong doubts on whether the project is in line with planning policies.

But the project may open a can of worms for the PN and its leader Adrian Delia on the eve of the Independence Day celebrations: while at local level party representatives have opposed the project, the PN leader has so far failed to pronounce himself against the project proposed by the same db Group which had funded the party before the general election.

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