PA approves Sadeen Cospicua campus before master plan drawn up

Permit is issued before the presentation of a master plan for the whole site and before the approval of the planned development on the rest of the Dock 1 site, given to Sadeen by government • An application still has to be presented for that part of the project which is set to incorporate the knights’ building, administrative offices and a car park

A permit application by Sadeen Construction Group was approved by the Planning Authority on Thursday, despite a lack of a master plan for the whole site
A permit application by Sadeen Construction Group was approved by the Planning Authority on Thursday, despite a lack of a master plan for the whole site

A permit application by Sadeen Construction Group for the development of a campus on the site of the British building in Dock 1 in Cospicua, was approved by the Planning Authority on Thursday, despite a lack of a master plan for the whole site.

No representative of Sadeen Group was present at the meeting.

The land in question was granted to the group by the government in December.

Opposition representative Ryan Callus, who along with the NGO representative voted against the project, questioned the ‘preferential treatment’ shown to Sadeen Group and insisted that parking issues should have been addressed before the permit was approved.

But the permit was issued before the presentation of a master plan for the whole site and before the approval of the planned development on the rest of the Dock 1 site, given to Sadeen by government.

An application still had to be presented for that part of the project which is set to incorporate the knights’ building, administrative offices and a car park. 

“The master plan should have been the first thing to be approved,” Callus said.

Callus also objected to the lack of any reference to the Zonqor part of the project which was being proposed on ODZ land.

“I cannot vote for a project which in its totality also includes ODZ Land,” he said.

NGO representative Annick Bonello voted against the permit due to the visual impact. 

PA chief executive, Johann Buttigieg, was quick to point out that a number of projects had been approved by the PN government without sufficient parking provision. 

Board member Ivan Tabone repeatedly questioned the NGO representative’s negative vote, insisting that she should explain her vote. 

Transport Malta will give feedback at a later stage

It was noted in the case officer report  that Transport Malta had not even provided any feedback on the application at Dock 1, despite its impact on parking which instead would only be assessed when the second part of the project is approved.

After the meeting a spokesperson for Transport Malta told MaltaToday that since the application forms part of "a wider part of the development brief"  traffic issues will be addressed "in other phases of the development," adding that it is "misleading to give the impresion that TM rescinded on its duties" because the permit granted by the PA was simply to "start restoring the buildings." In reality the full development permit issued by the PA was not to commence restoration works but to "change the use of disused building  into an educational institution"  and also foresaw "the reconstruction of missing original volumes, internal alterations and extensions including the addition of an extra floor".

Architect Edwin Mintoff revealed that a master plan for the whole area was still being drafted and would address the area comprehensively; that master plan would assess the provision of parking space for the campus. 

Mintoff confirmed that the site known as St Paul’s car park would be enough to cater for the parking demand of the project.

But investigations were still ongoing on how an underground car park would be developed in view of the historical nature of the site.

Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) chairman Victor Axiak expressed his full support for the project while voicing some reservations.

He questioned ‘the piecemeal way’ the application was being approved before the finalisation of a master plan.

Axiak also asked whether the approval of the application would compromise the need for an environmental impact assessment for the whole project, but was reassured by Mintoff who said this was not the case. 

He insistence that ERA would need to approve a construction waste management plan before works would commence, met some resistance from the board, but was ultimately approved.

A proposal put forward by board member Timmy Gambin – that Sadeem Group invest €50,000 in the locality – was also approved. 

Shortfall of 174 parking spaces

When the decision to split the campus between Zonqor and Dock 1 was announced in September last year St Paul’s car park was also identified as part of the project.  

According to the document presented on that occasion 150 parking spaces were to be created in the Cottonera component, and 300 parking spaces were to be provided at Marsaskala.

This would still result in a parking shortfall of 174 parking spaces in Cospicua. 

The case officer report noted that the proposed campus would cater for 500 students and 40 staff members, and that in line with the PA’s parking formula this would require the provision of 324 parking spaces.

While noting that the current application did not include any parking provision, the case officer sidelined this shortcoming claiming that the application “is the first phase of a larger project which will be required to address the overall parking provision of the entire educational institution.”    

The project includes the restoration of the building and the addition of a new floor, as well as a cafeteria in part of the restored building.

3,200 square metres of existing building will be retained and have already been restored while new structures, namely the new floor, will occupy 2,200 square metres.

A historical gantry crane is being removed on the pretext that this was not part of the original design, while the use of contemporary material on part of the site was justified to highlight the difference between the old part and the new part. 

The superintendence for cultural heritage had originally asked Sadeen to integrate the gantry crane in the structure but later it approved its removal and installation in an other spot which has yet to be identified.

Mintoff confirmed that it would be difficult to find an alternative site for this symbol of industrial heritage, bit noted that the removal of the gantry crane would make space for an intermediate floor. 

Kiosk approved on St Julian's pavement

The PA also approved a kiosk and tourist information centre on a pavement near the Portomaso garden despite strong objections by the St Julians local council.  St Julians mayor Albert Buttigieg expressed his exasperation.

“You didn’t really hear how it would affect residents, how a pushchair or wheelchair will pass should there be a kiosk. We didn’t hear how it would improve the quality of life for residents”.

PA Chairman Vince Cassar and ERA’s Axiak voted against the kiosk, together with the NGO representative. All other board members voted for the kiosk. 

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