Planning Authority postpones Manoel Island decision

After the developable area in Manoel Island was reduced, the Planning Authority now confirms it is in talks to compensate the developer with a similar-sized area for development in Tigne

An original photomontage of Manoel Island. New images showing how the project was redesigned were only made available today at the planning meeting.
An original photomontage of Manoel Island. New images showing how the project was redesigned were only made available today at the planning meeting.

A decision on the Manoel Island project was postponed after the Planning Authority board demanded more information on pending negotiations to compensate developers with developable land in Tigne.

During the meeting on Thursday, a PA official confirmed that 8,000 sq.m. of development space reduced from Manoel Island will be transferred to Tigne Point.

The developers, MIDI plc, have a concession to develop both sites.

The revelation means that the much-publicised reduction in developable floor space in Manoel Island from a permit issued in 1999, will be used by the developers to increase development in Tigne.

Negotiations on this land transfer are still pending. This emerged from a reply during the public hearing to a question made by MaltaToday.

Government representative Clayton Bartolo expressed concern that the transfer of 8,000 sq.m. of land to Tigne would have a bearing on the other application. He insisted that more information was needed on this aspect before a decision could be taken.

Former Alternattiva Demokratika chairperson Arnold Cassola objected, insisting that if this was the case, overdevelopment in Tigne should be compensated by decreasing the development in Manoel Island.

Planning Authority CEO Johann Buttigieg confirmed that talks were underway to compensate the developers by extending the developable space in Tigne
Planning Authority CEO Johann Buttigieg confirmed that talks were underway to compensate the developers by extending the developable space in Tigne

PA CEO Johann Buttigieg replied that he was willing to discuss the matter further.

A Gzira resident, Micheal Sciortino made constructive use of the public hearing system to present objections and proposals to the Manoel Island project in a detailed 25-minute-long presentation.

He also lamented the lack of photomontages to show impact of development after the height was revised last September.

The only visuals that were publically available before the meeting precede the changes. Newer photomontages were presented during today’s meeting.

Environmental Impact Assessment coordinator Paul Gauci acknowledged that no social impact assessment was ever made to assess the effect of the project on residents. 

The proposal involves an increase in the number of residential areas from 79,000 sq.m. to 83,000 sq.m. but a decrease of 8,000 sq.m. in the total gross floor area of the project when compared to the 1999 masterplan.

The reduction in development area comes mainly from reduced commercial and retail areas.

The project now includes 610 residential apartments, a 5-star hotel located in the Lazzaretto complex, an 8,449 sq.m. retail complex, a marina for 183 berths and 3,695 sq.m. allocated for sports facilities.

Building heights will be restricted to a maximum of 4 floors. The underground car park will cater for 2,600 cars.  The project will create 7,000 new car trips to and from Manoel Island.

The project includes two new bridges one for pedestrians and one for cars.

Gzira residents propose changes

In his presentation, Sciortino presented a number of amendments to the project to minimise the visual impact and the loss of space on the promenade.

“This is my hometown and I wish that Gzira becomes a better place,” he said. Sciortino lamented the loss of a significant part of the Gzira waterfront – the area opposite between Triq Stuart and Triq Ponsonby – to accommodate the new bridges.

He also objected to the adverse visual impact of the development on the site of the duck village on views from the promenade. This development will rise nearly 30 metres over sea level and 22 metres from street level. 

“We have already lost pedestrian space thanks to catering establishments on one side. Now we will lose the promenade on the other side,” Sciortino lamented.

To address this problem, he proposed keeping the bridge in its current location.  He also proposed relocating the imposing buildings in the duck village area. 

“Please relocate that block which will obstruct the view of Gzira residents who relax on the benches in the area,” another elderly resident begged.

Cassola reminded the board that 20 years ago the PA had approved the Tigne project with promoter Albert Mizzi later regretting the impact of the project. “Don’t repeat the same mistake. Bear some responsibility,” Cassola asked board members.

Architect Tara Cassar insisted on guarantees that public spaces remain so in the future. She also insisted that the use of the vast area identified for land reclamation should be defined now and not at a later stage.

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