Transport Malta’s proposal for a marina that will take up the entire bay of Marsascala has raised the ire of residents and civil society. This is yet another project that will envisage the loss of public open spaces, which will effectively privatise the coast.

Marsascala has, over the years, suffered the brunt of bad planning to an extent that the once-tranquil fishing village is now an unrecognisable hodgepodge of massive apartment blocks and blank party walls.

Following the legal debacle of the proposed ‘temporary’ marina in Xemxija, TM was quick to pounce on the Marsascala site, issuing a tender and ignoring residents and their local council. One wonders whether the transport regulator chose the Santa Marija period to publish the plans stealthily, as has been typical of so many entities falling under Ian Borg’s portfolio.

The ‘initial’ plans paint a horrifying picture for residents who will lose almost all the bay to boats. In addition, popular swimming spots in Żonqor and Jerma, further up from the marina, will have to bear the increased amount of seaborne traffic which will result in more pollution and increased safety risks for bathers.

TM claims the marina was envisaged in the 2006 local plans, however one wonders why there is a sudden urge for even more marinas, especially after the announcement of a similar project in Kalkara. The local plans have been used as a justification but the government is under no obligation to construct everything proposed in these plans.

Following the uproar – for now mostly limited to online activity – TM said its plans were only ‘initial’. However, this means that the decision to press ahead with the project has been taken and their statement is a prelude to the tried-and-tested manoeuvre of proposing a huge project first, then offer a downscaled design later as a way of reaching a ‘compromise’. The same had happened when the construction of the AUM campus in Żonqor was announced, then downscaled after the general outcry.

But this is a poisoned olive branch, which will see the project go through in the same stealthy manner in which it was proposed. The effects the marina will have on Marsascala need to be understood in the wider context of what is being proposed along the bay.

Only last summer, the Planning Authority approved the relocation of the waterpolo pitch to a location across the bay, sacrificing a sizeable chunk of the bay for the construction of commercial facilities which jar loudly with the context.

This relocation came about after a secret deal between the government and the Marsascala waterpolo club, which has to give up a prime spot to the phantom AUM campus in Żonqor.

Opposite Żonqor, construction magnate Joseph Portelli is eying the former Jerma hotel, with the intent of rebuilding it as a mixed-use development including more apartments and commercial facilities.

The development brief issued by the PA came under fire from residents and NGOs, with the government having to revise the floorspace and height limitations after court action was taken.

Besides added traffic and pollution, residents will find their open spaces replaced by boats and more and more construction.

The resulting overpopulation and saturation in the property market will bring about the devaluation of residents’ quality of life.

The proposed marina is yet another block in the unwarranted transformation of Marsascala into a busy seaside town, dominated by yachts and pricey ‘upmarket’ properties.

Residents, even those hailing from a Labour stronghold, will be the ones to lose out yet again to this piecemeal land grab.

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