Construction on the planned development of Manoel Island is expected to take eight years and cause “adverse” impacts during excavation, according to a newly published report.
The Environmental Impact Assessment for the development indicates that excavation works will require 11 truckloads per hour for a period 40 weeks.
Works will generate a total of 290,000 cubic meters of excavated material, with around 67,000 cubic metres reused on site, largely for a land reclamation project roughly the size of two football pitches.
Developers Midi are seeking to build an extensive “Mediterranean village” including a hotel at the historic Lazaretto, apartment blocks, retail outlets, yacht marina, helipad and public plazas.
The developers are also promising 80,000 square metre of new parks and family areas, as well as an arts and culture centre at Fort Manoel comprising galleries, museums, shops, restaurants. Other heritage buildings will largely be retained and restored.
According to the EIA report, the project’s visual impact is expected to be “beneficial” to the character and visual amenity of the area in certain aspects, while others, particularly the residential and commercial blocks visible from the Gżira and Sliema promenades, may be considered “outsized”.
The report notes that the development is likely to increase property prices and stimulate investment in high-end property and offices along the Gżira promenade.
“Such changes would be welcomed by people who own properties, the values of which would appreciate,” the report states. “On the other hand, small business people and low-income residents may be elbowed out of their community, with little possibility of their managing to find alternative affordable accommodation.”
The report also references a survey of 250 passers-by carried out at Manoel Island and notes that the responses indicated that the development “enjoys support among the public”.
The proposed landscaping around Fort Manoel to create a new public park is considered positive in terms of public amenity due to the present lack of green spaces in the surrounding area, while the effects of the commercial and residential development are considered moderate due to the similar existing activities nearby and the “present state of degradation of much of the area”.
The report highlights negative impacts on the flora and fauna of Manoel Island during construction, and raises concerns over the lack of information provided by the developers on how certain aspects of the project’s operations may affect water quality and marine life.
It notes that while mitigation measures may make it possible to retain the water quality in Marsamxett Harbour, human health implications could arise because of the use of the nearby Ta’ Xbiex waterpolo club area as a swimming zone.
Air quality is expected to suffer during construction but as high traffic generators such as supermarkets and offices have been excluded, the effects during operation “may be lower than expected”. A prior traffic study found that the development would generate an average of 4,900 daily trips.
The project’s development process has been marked by vociferous protests over public access to the foreshore and a widely-slated first draft master plan, which has since been revised.
However, relations between Midi and the community underwent a dramatic turnaround with the signing in March of a guardianship agreement with the local council and NGOs, guaranteeing protection and public access to the island’s heritage buildings, foreshore and green areas.
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