[WATCH] ‘Hands off Cottonera’ - residents in second protest against AUM extension

Cottonera residents insist they will not give up the fight against an extension of the American University of Malta

Cottonera residents have staged the second project in as many months against a proposed AUM extension
Cottonera residents have staged the second project in as many months against a proposed AUM extension

Residents of Cottonera gathered this morning to protest a proposed extension of the American University of Malta’s facilities, insisting that they would not give up the fight to protect their towns.

The protest, organised by NGO ‘Action: Give us back our land’ is the second in as many months.

The residents are opposing plans by AUM’s Jordanian owners for the construction of a large student dormitory behind the university’s Cospicua campus, on the existing car park leading to Senglea Gate, the extension of the campus into the Knights Building, and the construction of an administrative block between the British and Knights buildings.

In September, all PA board member declared their intention to deny AUM a permit for the proposed campus extension. The PA vote, however, was indicative, and has to be confirmed in another sitting.

Speaking at the demonstration, Joseph Tonna, a Senglea resident, said he would not allow AUM to cover the town with a “monstrous building.”

“Let’s not go down in our history as those who did not put up resistance to this invasion from Sadeen of Jordan. We shouldn’t just give up land which was given away in 2015, without our knowledge. Without a whisper of consultation,” Tonna, a medical doctor, said.

“No developer should be given the right to touch this beautiful town, other than to restore it,” he said.

Tonna said that, while the PA board had unanimously indicated that it would vote against the project, it now appeared that the development could in fact be take place.

He said the car park at the Maċina should remain an open space, with free access to the public, suggesting a public consultation on a suggestion to build an underground park with a garden at street level in the area.

“This way the bastions - such an integral part of our history - can be enjoyed in all their glory, and we can truly enjoy the few open spaces left in Cottonera.”

Tonna added that residents had faith that the government and PA would listen to their plight and understand the extension should not materialise.

Dione Caruana, a former Bormla resident who lives in Gozo, said the people didn’t have the intention to disrupt the government’s investment in AUM, but that just because the university had established itself in Cottonera, it didn’t mean that the place belonged to them.

Residents, he emphasised, would do everything to protect Cottonera’s open spaces.

The extension would be damaging the localities’ beauty and would amount to an insult to Malta’s cultural patrimony, he said.

One would not expect to go to a historical site, such as the pyramids in Egypt or the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and have a building like the one proposed by the AUM constructed there, he noted.

Although the PA board had indicated it would vote against the extension, Caruana said residents remained vigilant since AUM’s owners would be ready to offer anything to take under control the town’s remaining open spaces.

Cottonera residents who had their locality at heart should be united against “the monstrous project”, he added.

The protest comes a day after former president Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca came out against the extension, saying she would support residents. Labour MP Glenn Bedingfield had also earlier this year spoken out against the development.

More in National