The planned Manoel Island mega-development appears set for approval later this month after a positive recommendation from the Planning Directorate.

In its assessment ahead of a final decision by the Planning Authority on December 20, the directorate praised the Midi project’s open spaces, design and building heights, and plans for an arts and culture centre at Fort Manoel.

“The proposed development ensures that the historically important buildings are celebrated and embellished by a change in urban form… inspired by the discovery experience found through the curving streets of Mdina and the easy orientation and well-ventilated urban grid of Valletta,” the directorate case officer said.

Development consortium Midi, which was granted a 99-year concession on the site in 2000, is seeking to build an extensive residential and commercial complex across the large part of the island, including a hotel and casino at the historic Lazaretto, apartment blocks, retail outlets, yacht marina, streets and plazas.

The developers are promising 80,000 square metres of new parks and family areas around Fort Manoel, which will itself comprise galleries, museums, shops, restaurants after earlier plans for a hotel were dropped.

Historically important buildings are celebrated and embellished

The Planning Directorate also positively recommended recent changes to the plans which in-crease the height of several apartment blocks by one storey in exchange for a reduction in the built-up floor space.

Praising the decision to terrace the building heights to reduce their visual impact, the directorate, however, acknowledged that the unused floorspace would still be eligible for future development.

It noted that the Environment and Resources Authority had not objected to the plans, with the exception of landscaping and waste management plans which are being kept as reserved matters to be confirmed at a later stage.

The Environmental Impact Assessment had warned of “high significance and adverse” effects during construction, which is expected to take eight years and, during excavation, generate 11 truckloads of material every hour for 40 weeks.

The EIA report considered the proposed landscaping around Fort Manoel to positively impact on the surrounding area, but offered a mixed view on the visual impact, noting that the residential blocks may be considered outsized.

The report also referenced 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 project will be largely pedestrianised – with one of two new bridges solely for pedestrians and cyclists – but a traffic study also found it would nevertheless generate an average of 4,900 daily car trips to the area.

Once marked by controversy and public protests over foreshore access and a widely-slated first draft master plan, public reaction warmed with the signing in March of a guardianship agreement between Midi and the Gżira local council and NGOs, guaranteeing protection and public access to the island’s heritage buildings, foreshore  and green areas.

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 around €100 million.


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