The architect behind the Paola Square revamp on Tuesday hit out at the authorities for resurfacing the road within the square with asphalt, replacing the cobblestone paving that was originally laid as part of the project just over five years ago.  

The “dream” of a square in the south that prioritised pedestrians had been “crushed,” architect Christopher Mintoff said.

“The cobblestones have been replaced with the same material that is found in every bypass and main road,” Mintoff said.  

The state of the road had been the source of complaints by motorists for years, and Transport Minister Chris Bonett told parliament on Tuesday that repair works were now almost done.  

Infrastructure Malta had said earlier this month that the road between Luqa Road and Antoine De Paule square had suffered “considerable damage”.  

The square was paved as part of a revamp costing €3 million that was completed only five years ago, running into controversy when large mature ficus trees were replaced with saplings. The project’s architect had defended that decision, saying the ficus trees were damaging underground utilities. 

On Tuesday, Mintoff again defended the project and said that the cobbled street was well-engineered and met project specifications.  

“However well you design or build it, you cannot protect it from its users. Heavy traffic was meant to be banned from the square (to reduce noise, pollutants, etc). Yet, before the materials could fully cure, the square was used as a diversion for the heaviest of industrial traffic while the Marsa project was taking place,” he said.  

He said authorities were “very aware” of this issue.  

“The main initial damages were visibly shaped by the braking force of multi-wheelers that should have been banned by design. Once the paving came loose, traffic wore it down faster,” he said.  

Mintoff said that, unlike the newly resurfaced asphalt road, the cobbled street promoted slower traffic, smaller vehicles and more pedestrian activity in the square.  

Contacted for comment, Paola mayor Dominic Grima said that asphalt was used for resurfacing because repair works were “urgent”, admitting that the cobbled paving was aesthetically more pleasing than the asphalt.  

Making the point that the square is a central government project, the mayor said that the square's design should be revisited to make it more attractive.

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