Updated 1.50pm

The Planning Authority Board on Thursday voted 7-0 in favour of a revised masterplan and Outline Development Permit for Manoel Island.

The vote came after a long meeting which saw four members of the board and the Gżira local council recuse themselves following a request by objectors since they had decided on a previous application in March 2019.

The request was made at the beginning of the month by Michael Sciortino, on behalf of eNGO Flimkien Għal Ambjent Aħjar.

He had also requested that the Gżira local council recuses itself due to a possible conflict of interest: it had taken part in the 2019 decision and sits on the Manoel Island Foundation, the guardian of rights and obligations agreed to between the developers MIDI and the council.

When the meeting started on Thursday, chairman Martin Camilleri read out two statements from four board members: PA chairman Vincent Cassar, Environment and Resources Authority chairman Victor Axiaq, NGO representative Annick Bonello and board member Joseph Brincat said they were recusing themselves despite believing they were able to decide on the application.

“This is being decided despite the fact that the members of the Planning Board are of the opinion they are tenable in deciding the present proposal, but were recusing themselves to eliminate any doubts that the application can be considered objectively,” they said.

They added that they “feel they are not being left in a position to decide serenely and in the freedom that such a position on the board requires.”

Similarly, the Gżira council said it had decided not to attend the hearing because it had a conflict of interest: defending the interests of the Gżira community. 

During the conclusion of the meeting, the board members present stressed that the new plans were an improvement on the old ones, with greater public spaces and lower building heights. They also insisted that this is a master plan and an outline permit, and 'nothing is written in stone' in that each phase of the project will require a detailed process ahead of full development permit applications. 

MIDI plc is seeking to build residential, commercial and leisure facilities, with underground parking facilities.

It wants to upgrade the yacht marina with a floating breakwater, develop sports facilities for the local community and create other public amenities, such as an arts and culture centre.

The view of the development from Gzira.The view of the development from Gzira.

The proposal includes the restoration and re-use of heritage buildings and archaeological sites, the creation of large public open spaces and the regeneration of the park around Fort Manoel.

The public open spaces would make up a large proportion of the project’s footprint.

According to MIDI, the revised master plan for Manoel Island is a substantial improvement over the development contemplated in the deed of emphyteusis concluded in June 2000.

It includes open spaces equivalent in size to 22 football pitches and scaled-down buildings that would cover about 10 per cent of the site area.

According to a traffic impact assessment, approximately 3,000 cars go in and out of Manoel Island daily. 

The Planning directorate said there will be a reduction in new development when compared to the 2017 approved master plan.

How the proposed development will look from Valletta.How the proposed development will look from Valletta.

All parking will be underground, as opposed to the earlier proposal.

There was the complete removal of land reclamation while the proposed breakwater will be a floating one. 

The revised application will take up 450sqm from the Gzira promenade to make way for a new 42m-diameter roundabout, leading to a new bridge.

Works will be split into six phases.

Before these works begin, priority will be given to relocating the football pitch and Bocci club being taken up by the development. 

The next phases involve the construction of the new bridge leading to the island, dredging and excavation works and construction of the residential units. Restoration of the fort and other cultural heritage buildings will also take place. 

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