Marsaskala waterpolo pitch on reclaimed seabed gets planning permit

Planning Authority approves new waterpolo pitch in Marsaskala that was required after previous premises were granted to American University of Malta for a campus

An artist's impression of how the new waterpolo pitch in Marsaskala will look
An artist's impression of how the new waterpolo pitch in Marsaskala will look

Marsaskala will be getting a new waterpolo pitch after the Planning Authority approved the reclamation of 2,300sq.m of seabed.

The project along Triq is-Salini will see the construction of a waterpolo pitch, a clubhouse, a hall and a 190sq.m restaurant below road level.

Three board members, NGO representative Annick Bonello, economist Gilmour Camilleri and Duncan Mifsud voted against, while eight others, including Environment and Resources Authority chair Victor Axiak and Marsaskala mayor Mario Calleja voted in favour.

The development, proposed by government agency Sports Malta, was triggered by the allocation of the national pool in Żonqor for the development of the American University of Malta campus.

Camilleri raised doubts on the viability of the AUM project on the basis of the low intake of students and called for a postponement of the waterpolo pitch decision until a final decision is taken on whether to proceed with the Żonqor campus.

The project was approved on the basis of two policies, one zoning the area as an entertainment priority area and one, which considers the development of a yacht marina in the area while specifying that any development should not have any “adverse” impact on nearby residents. 

Camilleri said no social impact assessment was undertaken to ensure that the project had no adverse impact on residents.  

Board member Duncan Mifsud from Marsaskala, also questioned the suitability of the site warning that the project will result in traffic chaos.

But the project found support from ERA chair Victor Axiak who referred to studies showing that the protected sea grasses in the area where already “stressed”.

In a sign of the controversial nature of the application, 44 members of the public, mostly residents opposing the project, participated in the online meeting.

The waterpolo pitch will be located along Triq is-Salini
The waterpolo pitch will be located along Triq is-Salini

Graffiti activist Wayne Flask took umbrage at the assertion that the area is an entertainment zone describing the project as a “pretext to turn a residential area into an entertainment zone” and a way to “elbow residents away from their neighbourhood”. 

Flask added: “I have lived in Marsaskala for 31 years and this was always a residential area… and why is a restaurant being included if this is an educational project as being claimed?”

He also challenged Marsasakala mayor to choose between the residents and business interests.

But the mayor insisted that residents had mixed views on the project, with many supporting it and others opposing it.

“We cannot accommodate everyone. We understand the difficulties faced by residents in the area. But as a local government we have an obligation towards the children benefiting from the project,” he said.

Aaron Simpson of the Maraskala Sports Club, whose premises at the Żonqor national pool were vacated due to the AUM project, harped on the educational nature of the project.

He described the club as a “factory of talent” and defended the development of a restaurant, insisting that this was essential for the financial viability of the club. 

Mark Cutajar from Sports Malta insisted that the main purpose of the pool will be educational and not that of holding competitive matches.

Nationalist local councillor John Baptist Camilleri objected to the project because of its traffic impact.