[WATCH] Residents in Bormla and Isla object to loss of public spaces with proposed AUM extension

Resident action groups join forces to call on Planning Authority board to refuse American University expansion on Dock No. 1

Residents and NGOs aired their grievances two days before the Planning Authority decides on the application
Residents and NGOs aired their grievances two days before the Planning Authority decides on the application
Residents fear loss of public spaces with AUM extension

Residents from Bormla and Isla have called on the Planning Authority to reject the proposed expansion of the American University of Malta that will take up open spaces in their localities.

The residents are joined by a number of NGOs in a coalition calling itself Tuna Artna Lura (Give Us Our Land Back).

The Planning Authority’s planning directorate is recommending the approval of the expansion to the AUM campus in Bormla, which includes a proposed new building that will cover an open space on Dock No. 1.

Film director Rebecca Cremona, speaking for the coalition, said residents were in favour of investment and sustainable development of their towns but were concerned about the loss of open spaces.

“The proposed development will take away open public spaces here, and cover the bastions and fortifications and the Isla entrance. For these reasons, and because of the historic heritage here, this project would not be a regeneration of the area but a step backwards,” Cremona said.

Cremona said that they were appalled that the American University of Malta extension plans have been recommended for approval at the upcoming Planning Authority hearing on 26 September.

She said that a proposed dormitory building which is part of the same application which had been postponed by six months also entails a whole host of further issues and violations.

“Just eight years ago a group of youths from the Cottonera area made a public statement about the lack of open spaces in the area. Their statement and the ensuing project was supported unequivocally by the community. The regeneration of the derelict stretch of the dock - should be a step forward not backwards.”

The decision will commit the development of most of the site, with an administration block in steel and glass, located between the Knights’ Building and the British Building, which will rise to 19.5m. The building is proposed on an existing public staircase, resting on inclined columns.

An additional floor is proposed at the top of the original Knights’ building in steel and glass. Another building located along Dock 1 adjacent to the Knights’ Building will have the same height of the adjacent Knights’ Building. Photomontages show that the new building set for approval will obstruct views of the historical fortifications.

Labour MP Glenn Bedingfield recently asked the AUM to consider the Fortizza tas-Salvatur in Kalkara or the Palazz tal-Kaptan tal-Galjuni at the Birgu waterfront, as dormitories for AUM students. His proposal was supported by NGO Flimkien Ghall Ambjent Ahjar which remained critical on the rest of the project, warning that it will lead to the privatisation of the Cottonera waterfront and the loss of open space at the heart of the Three Cities.

A spokesperson for Flimkien ghal-Ambjent Ahjar added that the AUM extension was in breach of several policies including SPED which aims to protect open spaces.

“The FAA strongly objects to the development that will lead to the loss of open spaces in the heart of the Three Cities, an outrageous situation exasperated further by the unjustified intensification of privatization of the Cottonera waterfront.”

The FAA said that the proposal through the acquisition and complete loss of the remaining open spaces around Dock No. 1, stands as an example of a “poorly conceived proposal that will have a direct impact on the liveability and amenity of the Three Cites and can under no circumstance be acceptable to the competent authorities."

List of objections: 

  • Cultural: the proposed development, including the extension of the Knights' building, defaces the historic bastions and entrance of Isla. 
  • Sociological: the encroachment of the AUM into the only two public open spaces, along the western stretch of Dock No. 1, is disregarding the needs of the local community.
  • Environmental: the cottonera area is an already densely populated urban area with very few open spaces that are available to the public. The loss of these spaces has a large impact on the liveability of this area. 
  • Architectural: the dock is an urban conversation area and all development of buildings in the area should respect the aesthetic congruity and applicable policies for such zones. The proposed development is in breach of a number of planning provisions that aim to protect existing open spaces. 

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