Updated 5.02pm

Malta’s environmental regulator has said it does not object to plans to develop Manoel Island, with its board taking a vote to that effect on Friday.

The Environment and Resources Authority was assessing the environmental impact of construction plans on Manoel Island for a second time, after an appeals tribunal had annulled the project’s initial EIA.

In a statement issued on Saturday, the regulator said that its assessment laid out the need for marine works to be correctly phased, silt curtains to be used and a requirement to bar vessels and barges from passing through a nearby area where they could damage protected Maltese top shell (Steromphala nivosa).

Water and sediment quality will also be monitored at all phases of development, ERA said.

“ERA does not object to the proposal from an environmental point of view,” it said in a statement, adding that waste management, landscaping and the architectural design of the proposed building clusters were to be considered as reserved matters.

The main points of concern related to impacts on land use, landscape character and the visual impact of residential clusters on the western part of Manoel Island, ERA said.

It also noted potential risks arising from the disturbance of heritage features due to vibrations generated by excavation works and said increased vehicle activity during works would require a green travel plan to mitigate emissions increases.

The ERA board backed in principle a proposal by Gżira mayor Conrad Borg Manche to create a biodiversity centre in the area, to be used to encourage the propagation of native species and educate people about them. 

In its statement, ERA said the proposal would require "further evaluation at a later stage." 

Plans to develop Manoel Island

Manoel Island is set to be transformed under the terms of a masterplan with development consortium Midi, which plans to develop the area for mixed residential and commercial use.

According to revised plans presented by the company earlier this year, around 55,000 square metres will be taken up by new buildings while 175,000 square metres will be reserved for open spaces accessible by the public. 

The project has faced several hurdles over the past years, starting from a standoff with members of the public and activists over access to the foreshore that was subsequently resolved, through to a decision by the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal to annul the project’s EIA, approved by ERA in August 2018, as well as the project’s outline development permit.

All works on the project were subsequently suspended following that EPRT decision.

ERA said it had received the project’s resubmitted EIA on February 15, 2021. Its assessment looked at the EIA report’s conclusions as well as comments received from the public following a 30-day public consultation and a public hearing.

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