[WATCH] A look inside the new parliament, works entering final stages

GHRC Chairman Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi says works have entered final stages, but provides no new completion date yet

A quiet afternoon on Valletta's Republic Street, with the view from the new parliament building. Photo Ray Attard
A quiet afternoon on Valletta's Republic Street, with the view from the new parliament building. Photo Ray Attard

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The development of the new parliament building in Valletta is drawing ever close to completion with works entering into their final stage before parliament finally moves to the new plenary chambers, Grand Harbour Regeneration Corporation (GHRC) Chairman Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi told MaltaToday.

The building was scheduled for completion in time for the return of MPs after the summer recess on October 13, but several delays meant that the House of Representative has had to meet in the 'old' chamber at the Palace for now.

Contractors have since been served with a daily €20,000 fine for failing to meet the deadlines, and judging by the works that have been carried out during the last few months, it seems that the fines did the trick as only final works need to be carried out.

An exclusive tour of the place yesterday showed that lifts, audio visual systems, lighting fittings, security systems, furniture, as well as mechanical and electricity plants have all been installed. Moreover, works in the offices have also entered their final stage with only some furniture still lacking.

Outside, however, works on the façade are still behind schedule, with some stones yet to be quarried. Works in the plenary chamber have also entered their final stage, but larger-than-needed desks have proved to be a big headache and are likely to cause further delays.

“As a result of oversized desks, MPs would have been unable to stand between them and deliver their speeches. The problem is the responsibility of Renzo Piano’s office and as a result, the GHRC requested the office to take all the necessary action to address this problem.”

“A meeting was subsequently convened between Architect Antonio Belvedere, GHRC officials and members of the House Business Parliamentary Committee. The choice was simple: Either redo the whole floor of the chamber, or simply reduce the size of the desks in the chamber,” Zrinzo Azzopardi explained.

At the end, however, Zrinzo Azzopardi pointed out, that the GHRC went for the second option as otherwise any other extraordinary works would have cost hundreds of thousands of euros and further months of delays.

Undeterred by the extra work that needs to be carried out, an optimistic GHRC chairman underlined that it would not be months before works are completed.

“After all the works are carried out, we must ensure that all expectations have been met and that the quality of the works has not been compromised. The GHRC and members of the parliament will then agree on a date when the migration could take place,” Zrinzo Azzopardi said, while not giving an exact date when the House could move in.

Zrinzo Azzopardi also explained that more workers will be employed to administer the new parliament, while seats in the chamber have increased to around 80.

Below the chambers lies the mechanical heartbeat of the new parliament building as a tunnel built in the late 1840s, now houses the building’s mechanical and electrical plants.

Elsewhere, works on the offices of the prime minister, the opposition leader, ministers and the Speaker have also entered their final stage. Speaker Anglu Farrugia will undoubtedly be the envy of MPs as his spacious top-floor office enjoys breathtaking views of Valletta and St Julian’s.

Zrinzo Azzopardi explained that the ditch under City Gate will be converted into a public garden and a car park, while an inclined life connecting the ditch and Republic Street is currently being installed.