Manoel Island developers Midi have applied to increase the height of several planned residential complexes by around four metres, among other changes to their mega-development master plan.

New plans, submitted to the Planning Authority in September, would increase the height of the planned apartment blocks on the landward side of Manoel Island to four storeys, or 18.5 metres, instead of the three storeys (14.5 metres) in the original master plan submitted last year.

In exchange, the new plans eliminate some of the previously-planned blocks, with the cleared footprint designated instead as “private open space”.

An environmental impact assessment drawn up before the new plans were submitted had already noted that the residential blocks, visible from the Gżira and Sliema promenades, might be considered “outsized”. However, the Environment and Resources Authority said the proposed changes did not alter the findings of the original impact assessment.

Would increase the height of the planned apartment blocks to four storeys

Apart from the increase in building heights, the new plans revise the layout of the planned yacht marina and sports facilities and relocate the landing of a new pedestrian bridge connecting to the mainland. In the new plans, the existing historic bridge will be retained only as a viewpoint and will not connect to the island.

The issue of building heights was central to a guardianship agreement struck earlier this year between Midi, the Gżira local council and NGOs, under which Midi bound itself not to increase building heights over those approved in the eventual permit without the consent of the stakeholders.

The Manoel Island Foundation, set up to oversee the agreement, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

In a submission on the new plans, the foundation, together with NGOs Friends of Manoel Island and Flimkien Għal Ambjent Aħjar, insisted on the terms of the guardianship agreement being respected, including the principle of low-rise development across the island.

The local council also said the guardianship deed should be adhered to “with no exceptions” and insisted on being kept informed of any changes.

Din l-Art Ħelwa, meanwhile, objected to the application, calling for an increase in open space, which, it said, amounted only to passageways between buildings.

“Manoel Island shouldn’t be turned into another bland overbuilt extension of Gżira but retained as a public area to be enjoyed by all,” the NGO said.

Development consortium Midi was granted a 99-year concession on the large part of Manoel Island in 2000 with plans to build an extensive ‘Mediterranean Village’ including a hotel at the historic Lazaretto, apartment blocks, retail outlets, yacht marina, helipad and public plazas.

The Times of Malta reported last month that the project was set to change hands, with Tumas Group poised to buy a majority of shares for about €100 million.

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