Townsquare study: 60% of Sliema residents do not trust Planning Authority

Sliema versus the Planning Authority: residents disagree with Townsquare despite revision of plans and have no trust in PA

The Planning Authority board during a sitting to decide on the Townsquare project: its decisions on major projects inside Malta’s towns have robbed it of public trust
The Planning Authority board during a sitting to decide on the Townsquare project: its decisions on major projects inside Malta’s towns have robbed it of public trust

A Social Impact Assessment on the proposed Townsquare development has revealed a deep distrust of the Planning Authority among Sliema residents.

The survey shows that 60% of Sliema residents have no trust in the Planning Authority’s decision-making process on major projects. These include 47% who have “absolutely no trust” in the planning regulator. Only 16% of Sliema residents replied that they trust the PA.

The survey was based on a sample of 450 Sliema residents who were interviewed by MISCO (Malta) in September and October 2018.
Trust in the government and the Environment and Resources Authority with regards to decisions on major projects was slightly higher: 23% trust government while 50.1% distrust it; 20% trust the ERA while 49% distrust it.

Opposition to Townsquare among different categories (%)

EU residents53
Non-EU residents28
Aged 16-25 years27
Aged 46-55 years71
Earn over €60,00017
Earn €10,000-20,00066
Business owners33
Skilled workers62


61% of Sliema residents said they were against the revised Townsquare project, but the rich and young were the most favourable.
Despite the height reduction from 38 to 28 storeys the survey confirms a widespread opposition to the Townsquare project.

The project was originally approved by the Planning Authority’s board in 2016. But the permit was revoked by the appeals tribunal, the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal. Subsequently the developers submitted new plans which downscaled the proposed tower.

Before replying to questions respondents were informed that the proposed Sliema Townsquare development “currently includes a tower of 28 floors that is mainly residential, plus a number of buildings comprising office, retail and food and beverage outlets” as well as the conversion of Villa Drago to be used for offices, retail and food and beverage.

When asked whether they agreed with the Sliema Townsquare project, 61% said they disagree or completely disagree with the project. These included 50.3% who “completely disagree” and 10.2% who “disagree” with the project.

17.4% said they agree or completely agree, while 22.2% said they neither agree nor disagree with it.

The major concerns of Sliema residents on the project relate to traffic, air pollution, parking and noise pollution. To a lesser extent, residents are also concerned about the impact on the cost of living, local culture, local character and aesthetics.

A considerable number of people claimed, without being prompted, that the project would have a negative impact on natural light in the area and the sewage system.

A breakdown by age reveals that the younger age group (16-25) were the only bracket favourable to the project (53% in favour, 27% against). All other age groups are more inclined to be against, particularly the over 66-year age group (73% against and 8% in favour). Opposition was also strong in the 46 to 55 age group (71.3% against, 12.5% in favour).

Opposition to the project was also higher among female respondents. While 68% of females opposed the project, opposition fell to 53% among males.

Maltese nationals in Sliema were the most likely to disagree with the project (68% against, 12% in favour). Residents hailing from EU countries were also likely to disagree (53% against, 22% in favour). But among non-EU nationals support for the project was higher (40% in favour, 28% against).

A breakdown by occupation reveals that business owners were the only category with a relative majority agreeing with the project (40% in favour, 33% against). Opposition was highest among house-persons (77%), pensioners (70%), skilled workers (62%), and managers and professionals (61%).

A breakdown by income shows that only those earning more than €60,000 agree with the project. Among this category 33% agreed with the project while 17% were against. But 50% were undecided.

People who have lived in Sliema for a longer period of time were less likely to be in favour of the project. Residents with no children were less likely to disagree than residents with children.

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