The government has formally tabled two parliamentary resolutions for land in Senglea and Marsascala earmarked for the American University of Malta to return to the government, with the university instead given land at SmartCity to develop a campus.
The resolutions were tabled by Economy Minister Silvio Schembri following months of complex negotiations with both the AUM and SmartCity Malta.
The deal will see the controversial university being given a sizeable plot of land, measuring over 31,500 square metres to develop the campus it had previously been planning at outside development land at Żonqor in Marsascala and the dormitory on a site in Senglea, close to its present campus in Cospicua.
The deals had originally been announced by Prime Minister Robert Abela during the electoral campaign.
Abela welcomed the tabling of the resolutions, which the government had pledged to carry out in the first 100 days of the new legislature.
AUM plans to build a campus in Marsascala had drawn nationwide protests in 2015, with the government eventually pledging to not allow that project until AUM had filled its Cospicua campus.
The university’s plans to build a dormitory instead of a car park in Senglea also attracted widespread irritation within Cottonera, with even Labour whip Glenn Bedingfield making a public plea for the university to change tack.
The Planning Authority rejected an initial application in 2019 but the AUM had appealed that verdict. The appeal, which also concerns AUM plans to add a floor to the Knight's Building next to its Cospicua campus, is still pending.
When it was first announced in 2015, AUM investors Sadeen Group said they intended to attract hundreds of students to the private university within a few years of operation.
According to the resolutions, seen by Times of Malta, the government will be taking back almost 45,000 square metres of land in SmartCity where AUM can build its new campus alongside a new campus the government plans to build for the Institute of Tourism Studies.
SmartCity Malta is now obliged to build a new private primary and secondary school as well as develop some 7,000 square metres of space for businesses instead of the originally-planned apartments. These must be completed within five years from when permits are issued.
Moreover, the government has varied the original plan which had stipulated that some 118,000 square metres of public land had to remain public open spaces. Instead, this area has now increased to 130,000 square metres. SmartCity Malta is also bound to invest €100,000 a year for educational purposes.
In turn, the government committed itself to upgrade the road network leading to SmartCity Malta, including a ring road around the entire village as well as a 600-car underground car park and a shuttle bus linking SmartCity to AUM in Cospicua from where people can get a boat to Valletta.
In a separate resolution, Schembri proposed that the area in Senglea where AUM wanted to build its dormitory will be turned into a public garden. AUM will also be given five garages in the area.
Both resolutions have been tabled with the Parliamentary National Audit Office Accounts Committee, chaired by deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne.
If there is agreement between both sides, the matter is then reported to parliament. Otherwise, the matter will be brought to plenary where it will be discussed, possibly next week.
The matter is expected to be concluded before Parliament stops for the summer recess.
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