Manoel Island excavation works halted pending tribunal decision

Flimkien Ghal Ambjent Ahjar appealed the master plan for the island after it said that MIDI plc's lack of environment management system guaranteed that residents in Gzira would be subjected to high-emission vehicles constantly traversing the area 

MIDI plans to build a casino-hotel, shopping complex and luxury apartments on Manoel Island
MIDI plans to build a casino-hotel, shopping complex and luxury apartments on Manoel Island

The Planning Appeals Tribunal has requested that all excavation works on Manoel Island stop for a period of three months while the tribunal examines the appeal lodged against the master plan for the island.

The appeal was lodged by Flimkien Ghal Ambjent Ahjar (FAA), arguing that the original master plan issued in the year 2000 had expired and was never renewed. Moreover, FAA said, the renewed master plan approved by the Planning Board earlier this year was invalid for a number of reasons.

The Planning Commission had approved a permit for excavation works at Manoel Island, despite the pending appeal to the project filed by several NGOs and residents. 

“The FAA is very concerned about the lack of an environment management system for the excavation works which had been promised by developers,” the NGO said in a statement on Wednesday.

MIDI plc, the consortium contracted by the government since June 2000, objected to the appeal, saying that such a moratorium would prejudice MIDI’s duties and obligations it had to respect since the land in question passed on by the government came with an agreement that includes a set timeline in which works have to be completed.

Covering an area of around 440,000 sq.m, the developments under MIDI’s management are expected to cost around €600 million. To date 349 residential units in Gzira and Tigné have already been sold.

“MIDI itself had admitted in its project development statement that its contractors’ trucks fall far short of environmental standards, and that their diesel engines emit toxic nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxides,” the FAA said.

This despite MIDI intending on making 15,000 trips with such trucks through the narrow streets of Gzira, the NGO claimed. The FAA highlighted the perils behind such an operation—vehicle emissions contribute to asthma, heart attacks, strokes and cancer.

“The FAA will continue working on this project to safeguard the interest of Malta’s residents and heritage,” FAA said.

This followed another win for the environmental NGO. Earlier this week, the same tribunal took a decision to rescind a Rabat development permit that would have threatened the walls forming the last remaining part of the Roman ditch to Mdina.

FAA will continue working on this project to safeguard the interests of Malta's residents and heritage.

The FAA was represented by lawyer Dr Andrew Sciberras.

Martin Saliba, Simon Micallef Stafrace and Robert Sarsero presided over the tribunal hearing.

Excavation works on Manoel island will be suspended for three months until 17 December.

The hearing will continue on 24 September.

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