Paceville masterplan ‘makes mockery’ of new coastal protection law, AD warns

Opposition MP Marthese Portelli calls for details on financial compensation for residents and businesses who will be evicted as a result of Paceville regeneration masterplan • Planning Authority non-committal on how much regeneration will cost government

MPs on the Planning and Environment committee are discussing a proposed Paceville masterplan
MPs on the Planning and Environment committee are discussing a proposed Paceville masterplan

Alternattiva Demokratika deputy chairperson Carmel Cacopardo savaged a proposed masterplan for the regeneration of Paceville, warning that it “makes a mockery” of a new law to safeguard the coast that passed in Parliament earlier this year.

“The masterplan conflict with the Public Domain Law that was passed unanimously in Parliament only a few months ago,” he told MPs at the environment and planning committee. “Although the law does allow for exceptions, I would not have expected MPs to use such provisions so soon after the law had passed. I would like to think that you know what you are doing when you are casting your votes in the House.

“The consultants who drafted this masterplan were either not informed about such a clear public policy, or else they ignored the terms of reference entirely. We cannot allow such a clear policy direction to be ridiculed so soon after its passing through Parliament.”

Cacopardo also warned that the masterplan as proposed will close off the coast of Paceville to water sports – the plan foresees three high-rise towers on the foreshore currently occupied by the Cresta Quay watersports centre.

“We need to redevelop the existent buildings that are currentl under-used before speaking of land reclamation or developing buildings along the coast. The masterplan should go back to the drawing-board.”

Planning Authority executive chairman Johann Buttigieg retorted that coastal access will be maintained and that the expansion of the bay could facilitate water sports activities. Moreover, he repeatedly insisted that the plan is by no mans a finished product and that it could well be changed following the ongoing public consultation period.

 

A Planning Authority representative also failed to answer questions posed by Front Harsien ODZ spokesperson Monique Agius on how much money the government will fork out for the regeneration of Paceville.

“The masterplan includes a global costing exercise and states that it will be funded by EU funds, the government, and developers. However, it is still too early to state the financial proportions of each party.”

‘Masterplan has completely ignored Paceville residents’

During the meeting, shadow environment minister Marthese Portelli once again called for clear details on which Paceville residents and businesses will be impacted by expropriation, and how much they will be compensated for it.

She was backed by Paceville resident Noel Buttigieg Scicluna, who hit out at the designers of the masterplan for “completely ignoring” the 120 families who will be directly impacted as a result of massive infrastructural changes.

He also warned that the envisaged plan will ruin St George’s Bay, which he described as the “fulcrum” of Paceville.

“Cresta Quay takes up a quarter of St George’s Bay. As it stands, it can be enjoyed by the public in its natural state, but a 30-storey tower and two other high-rise buildings have been proposed there. How can you justify building a 30-storey tower on the foreshore at the far end of a narrow bay? Give me one environmental and technical reason why these three towers will be plonked in the middle of St George’s Bay.”

Johann Buttigieg said that the towers “form part of a cluster proposed by the experts opinions”.

Din l-Art Helwa president Marie-Grazia Cassar warned that the plan doesn’t prioritize Paceville residents, and didn’t even include the construction of basic necessities such as a polyclinic.

“We are talking about the design of an entire town in which people will be living in,” she said.

She was backed by Opposition MP George Pullicino, who said that the masterplan does not make any reference to community facilities, and called for clarifiations on what the envisaged “public, open spaces” will actually consist of.

Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar official Tara Cassar questioned what happened to a proposal to the green NGO’s proposal for the stretch of beach between Sliema and St Julian’s to be included as part of the public domain. Buttigieg repeatedly said that it was “being taken in consideration” and that a decision will be taken “within the scope of the law”.

Environmentalist Alfred Baldacchino called for social and economic impact assessment reports into the masterplan, as well as environmental reports by the Environment and Resources Authority.

Buttigieg said that such assessment will take place as required by law, while ERA chief executive Reuben Abela said that the organisation is carrying out its own studies on the masterplan before presenting a formal stance. 

Opposition MP Ryan Callus questioned whether the public will not get to know ERA’s stance during the initial public consultation process, to which Abela retorted that ERA will be putting in its own submissions.

Elsewhere, Swieqi mayor Noel Muscat warned that the masterplan as proposed will overflow the town with traffic passing through it.

Following a request by a visibly frustrated Pullicino, the committee also agreed to invite the consultants who drafted the Paceville masterplan to the next committee meeting, following demands from a visibly frustrated George Pullicino.

“The people behind this masterplan cannot remain like ghosts hiding behind the name of a corpoate company, and MPs should be allowed to direct questions to them,” he said.

He also questioned whether the consultants had signed a disclaimer that they were not also consulting the developers who will benefit from the masterplan.

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