The carnival village proposed in Marsa has tripled in size and will almost double in height, according to new plans filed with the Planning Authority.

The village is expected to create an additional 1,000 daily car trips and may have a significant archaeological impact, given that items of archaeological importance have already been unearthed during preliminary works.

The Environment and Resources Authority has given its no objection to the proposed project from an environmental point of view, despite its massive size, concluding in its environmental impact screening process that the environmental impacts of the proposed development are unlikely to be significant.

The proposal, spearheaded by Festivals Malta, is a revision of the ‘Malta Carnival Experience’ project approved by the PA in October 2016. Work on the project never began so fresh plans were submitted for the project to become an Arts and Culture Community Hub.

The revised proposal includes all previously approved workshop spaces, dance studios, museum, audio-visual centre, orientation centre, cafeteria, offices, reception area, security room, stores and parking.

It will now include a newly proposed 5D cinema, an indoor and outdoor theatre and rock band studios.

When compared to the previous proposal, the total gross floor area would increase by 286%. Photo: ERA reportWhen compared to the previous proposal, the total gross floor area would increase by 286%. Photo: ERA report

When compared to the previous proposal, the total gross floor area would increase from 26,970 square metres to 77,200 square metres – an increase of 286%.

The built footprint would decrease from 19,215 square metres to 13,010 square metres.

As a result of the considerable increase in gross floor area and reduced footprint, the massing would intensify to five floors, with an associated increase in building height from 12 metres to 16.6 metres on Triq il-Biċċerija and to almost 22 metres on Triq Troubridge.

Parking provision is proposed to increase from 90 to 310 parking spaces, with parking located at level 0 and level 2 (from Triq il-Biċċerija).

Once the hub is up and running, the revised development would generate additional traffic over what had been anticipated for the approved development, with the annual average daily traffic increasing to 973 daily vehicle trips.

The new project will comprise 30 interactive workshops, covering a total area of just under 6,250 square metres, 22 carnival float workshops covering almost 5,000 square metres and eight carnival costume workshops covering an area of almost 1,400 square metres.

It will also have dance rehearsal studios, a 57-square-metre museum of local performing arts, a 68-square-metre audiovisual centre and 18 rock band studios. The indoor theatre will seat 380 people while the outdoor theatre in the parade ground will have 914 seats. The 5D cinema will have 616 seats while the cafeteria and souvenir shop will cover an area of almost 1,000 square metres.

The site is within the Albertown Industrial Area and is identified in Grand Harbour Local Plan as a site for a prime tourism and leisure harbour destination which is innovative, sustainable and socially inclusive. The policy includes uses such as high-quality innovation hubs with facilities and shared spaces for start-ups in the creative industries, research and development and technologies.

ERA notes in its report that the southern part of the site had already been demolished, with works having started in 2017. Although there are no natural heritage designations within the area, a number of artefacts were unearthed during the clearance of the southern part of the site.

The Superintendence of Cultural Heritage has recommended the appointment of an archaeological monitor during works.

In terms of waste generation, the demolition of existing structures and site clearance works are envisaged to generate approximately 1,900 tonnes of waste material including concrete, bricks, masonry, tiles, ceramics, steel and aluminium, as well as 1,500 metres squared of material containing asbestos.

Excavation works would generate an additional 6,000 tonnes of soil and stone material. ERA said such waste generation is not considered significant as long as all waste is managed in accordance with regulations. It recommended that efforts are done to reduce waste generation at source and maximise recycling.

Despite the heavy increase in traffic generation, ERA concluded that no significant impacts are envisaged from such traffic generation.

With respect to sustainability, ERA’s environmental impact screening concluded that no adverse effects are envisaged since solar panels with a sufficient capacity to cover the energy demand of the entire development, as well as integrated energy-efficient heating, ventilation and AC, low-energy lighting systems, and three rainwater reservoirs were being proposed.

The project was originally featured in the Labour Party’s 2013 electoral manifesto. Three years later, almost €4.2 million of EU funds were allocated to it, and the scheduled end date for the project was set as June 1, 2020.

Yet, despite the Marsa site being chosen, and tenders on the excavation works awarded, work on the project never took off. Sources told Times of Malta that those EU funds were instead diverted to other projects.

Asked for an update in January, Culture Minister Owen Bonnici said the government was in the process of applying for EU funds for the long-promised project. EU funding was also being sought for the restoration of Villa Guardamangia, which for some time served as Malta's residence for the late Queen Elizabeth II.


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