Gzira residents call on government to buy back part of Manoel island

Inhobbu l-Gzira are insisting the government should buy back the tip of Manoel Island closest to the shore and use it for the community

A group of Gzira residents have sent an open letter to both the government and the Opposition calling on the government to buy back for tip of Manoel Island from the MIDI group and convert it into an open space for the community.

The letter was approved by some 70 Gzira residents present at a meeting on the proposed development. The theme of the meeting was  ‘Manoel Island for the People, not Profit’ and it was addressed by objectors and members of the community concerned by the possible permanent consequences of the planned works on Manoel Island, including land reclamation in the area.

The session was organised by the newly-set up Inhobbu l-Gzira which describes itself as a grassroots citizens group, setup to defend the rights of Gzira residents and property owners.

The group is asking that, “if it is not possible to turn the island into a national park”, the government buys back the tip of the island on which two blocks of apartments are to be built. Instead, the residents are asking that the area be converted in an open space for residents.

Moreover, the  group is asking that the planned height of some apartments be reduced in order for views of Valletta and Marsamxett harbour from Gzira to be preserved.

Furthermore, the group is asking that the plans for land reclamation be scrapped in order for the yacht yard not to be moved closer to the locality.

READ MORE: Planning Authority postpones Manoel Island decision

Finally, the Inhobbu l-Gzira is asking that if the slipway on the island must be removed, that it be replaced by another somewhere else on the island with adequate facilities.

Among the topics discussed were the planned loss of a “large part of the sea” along the promenade between Triq Stuart and Triq Manoel and the narrowing of the sea channel through land reclamation, the building of apartment block which the group says will “block all open spaces and views of Marsamxett Harbour, as well as the removal of the current slipway and its facilities.

One of the group’s founders, Michael Sciortino, gave a rundown of some of the impacts envisaged by the project including the project’s effect on views from Gzira, added pressures on the locality due to parking and sewage generated by the development, as well as negative health effects from having the current yacht yard moved closer to the locality through land reclamation.

Sciortino also pointed out that a result of changes that are planned to the sea around the island, some  areas will see a 7.3% increase in wave height.

Also of great concern, he said, was the fact that in order to accommodate a new, wider bridge, a large part of the current promenade would be lost.  

Those present, argued that the development would have “major impacts” on the town’s environment and residents’ health, both during and after the project’s implementation.  

PN MEP candidate Michael Briguglio and AD leader and MEP candidate Carmel Cacopardo were both present at the meeting. 

A vast majority of those pressed expressed their anger at what they said was a development that residents of the locality would gain nothing from.

Referring to the proposed land reclamation close to the Gzira shore, one resident asked whether the original agreement also gave the developers ownership of the sea, with Sciortino replying that the it did.

Another individual stressed that the project had been in the pipeline for a long time and that the current plans were a significant improvement over the original plans, a fact Sciortino also acknowledged.

The proposal involves an increase in the number of residential areas from 79,000 sq.m. to 83,000 sq.m. but a decrease of 8,000 sq.m. in the total gross floor area of the project when compared to the 1999 masterplan.

The reduction in development area comes mainly from reduced commercial and retail areas.

The project now includes 610 residential apartments, a 5-star hotel located in the Lazzaretto complex, an 8,449 sq.m. retail complex, a marina for 183 berths and 3,695 sq.m. allocated for sports facilities.

Building heights will be restricted to a maximum of 4 floors. The underground car park will cater for 2,600 cars.  The project will create 7,000 new car trips to and from Manoel Island.

The project includes two new bridges one for pedestrians and one for cars.

READ MORE: New Manoel Island plan to retain public park of over 80,000 square metres

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