Planning Authority publishes Paceville roads and tunnel project plans

Environmental and heritage watchdogs want more details over tunnels that will beneath protected caves and gardens

Infrastructure Malta’s extensive road and tunnel plans for the Paceville and Pembroke towns have been published on the Planning Authority website, with the public having until 8 November to present objections and recommendations. 

Infrastructure Malta had announced the project on its social media page in May but the actual plans were kept under wraps, alongside hundreds of other planning applications deemed to be “incomplete” by the Planning Authority. The Ombudsman had insisted that the public should be informed about the plans from the initial stages.

The plans were published a few days after the Planning Ombudsman called for their immediate publication following a complaint made by former independent candidate Arnold Cassola.

The project proposes the upgrading of the Pembroke-St Julian’s connection through the widening of Triq Sant’ Andrija and Triq Anzio, a 500m tunnel connecting Regional Road and Triq Santu Wistin and Triq Walter Ganado, a tunnel connection between Triq il-Knisja and Triq San Gorg in Paceville, a 1.5 km tunnel connection between Triq Xatt ta’ San Gorg and the Coast Road, and new  roundabouts at Spinola, Triq Elia Zammit, Triq Sant’ Andrija and Triq is-Sajjieda.

The plans also envisage a tunnel and a pedestrian link crossing the Harq Hammiem valley. In Paceville the proposed tunnels will converge under the protected Spinola gardens.

The plans have already been reviewed by the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage and the Environment and Resources Authority, both of which have called for more details on aspects of the project.

In its preliminary assessment the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage has noted that the project will have a “potential” impact on a number of heritage sites including the gardens around the Spinola Palace, the Harq Hammien underground cave, the scheduled rifle ranges and military parade ground ranges at Pembroke, and the monuments located in the Spinola junction.

The Superintendence has noted that the proposed drawings “clearly indicate direct impact” on the protected Spinola gardens and has called for a clear method statement, detailing the proposed methodology for the excavation of the tunnel and the impact this will have on the garden.

With regards to works proposed in the Spinola junction, the SCH is insisting that the Statue of Christ, the Horse Drinking Trough and the arches along the sea front “are not dismantled or relocated and any proposed works should include clear methodology ensuring their safeguard”.

The SCH has also called for more information with regards the proposed tunnel crossing Wied Harq Hammiem valley and has called for visual renderings of the proposed pedestrian link.  It is also calling for appropriate methodology to ensure that the Harq Hammiem cave is not damaged.

The Superintendence further noted that a project of such scope and extent should require an Environmental Impact Assessment which has to include an assessment of the cultural heritage features within the scope of the project, including archaeological features and the built heritage.

On its part the Environment and Resources Authority has called for the submission of a Project Development Statement (the first stage of the EIA process). Moreover the project will have to be screened for its impact on the Pembroke Natura 2000 site under which one of the tunnels will pass.

ERA also asked the applicant to provide a plan identifying all trees present on site and any interventions proposed on them.

According to Infrastructure Malta the project is aimed to reduce traffic in several residential roads in Pembroke, Swieqi and St Julian’s “whilst developing the necessary infrastructure to meet the area’s future transportation requirements”. 

The Pembroke tunnel was first proposed in the application for the DB development which along other developments in the area is expected to generate 7,000 new car trips.

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