The Planning Authority board has put off a hearing of an application for the development of Manoel Island after objectors requested the recusal of board members who had decided on a previous application in March 2019.

Michael Sciortino, on behalf of eNGO Flimkien Għal Ambjent Aħjar, made the request at the start of a meeting on Thursday.

He also requested that the Gżira local council recuses itself due to a possible conflict of interest: it had taken part in the 2019 decision and sits on the Manoel Island Foundation, the guardian of rights and obligations agreed to between the developers MIDI and the council.

Gżira mayor Conrad Borg Manchè said this request did not make sense as local government needed to make its voice heard on a project affecting the locality.

MIDI plc’s lawyer Mario Camilleri had earlier pre-empted the objectors, who had already used this argument during pending appeals.

Pending appeal not about planning process

He said the pending appeal was not about the planning process but over the endorsement, by the Environmental and Resources Authority, of the environment impact assessment.

Planning Authority board chairman Vince Cassar put off the case to September 16 so that the board members could discuss the request for their recusal.

MIDI plc is seeking a permit for the development of Manoel Island into residential, commercial and leisure facilities, with underground parking facilities.

It wants to upgrade the marina with a floating breakwater, develop sports facilities for the local community and create other public amenities, such as an arts and culture centre.

The proposal includes the restoration and re-use of heritage buildings and archaeological sites, the creation of large public open spaces and the regeneration of the park around Fort Manoel. The public open spaces would make up a large proportion of the project’s footprint.

According to MIDI, the revised master plan for Manoel Island is a substantial improvement over the development contemplated in the deed of emphyteusis concluded in June 2000.

It includes open spaces equivalent in size to 22 football pitches and scaled-down buildings that would cover about 10 per cent of the site area.

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