They say hard work pays off. Indeed, it does. Following years of debate and discussions, Midi has presented a revised master plan for Manoel Island, which respects the rich architectural heritage and, more importantly, provides more open spaces for the enjoyment of the local community.

During our debates on Manoel Island, the objective of the Gżira local council and environmentalist Claire Bonello has been to preserve this unique destination in the heart of Gżira. The council, together with Bonello, wanted to ensure that Midi’s development will not restrict access to the foreshore of Manoel Island, fully respects the heritage sites and buildings and will lead to only low-rise buildings and an environmental balance by creating accessible open spaces for the public to enjoy.

Today, I can proudly say that our objective has been reached and the revised master plan coupled with the obligations entrenched in the guardianship deed will truly ensure that Gżira will benefit from the development of Manoel Island.

The guardianship deed entered into with the Manoel Island Foundation and the Gżira local council in March 2018 provides that the foundation acts as guardian to ensure that Midi, as the developer, respects its obligations as set out in the deed with the government and the guardianship deed. With this deed, Midi is accepting its role in the community by realising that the public land granted to it must be kept open to the public, landscaped and maintained in good condition to be enjoyed by everyone.

The local council always insisted that thorough archaeological investigations were required prior to the commencement of work in the areas identified as archaeologically sensitive in the cultural heritage report forming part of the 2018 EIA. The investigations which took place under the supervision of the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage yielded several archaeological finds which warrant preservation and this required Midi to revise the master plan for the development of the island.

The 80,000sqm Glacis Park will be protected

The revised master plan provides for a significant reduction in the density of the development with new buildings now only occupying 10 per cent of the site as opposed to the 26 per cent in terms of the 1999 approved plans. More importantly, the reduction in development has made way for a new 35,000sqm open public space which stretches from the entrance of Manoel Island to the Lazzaretto. This area is projected to be partly landscaped with trees and partly paved to create a plaza centred around the customs house and the cattle shed to create a destination for the enjoyment of the public.

Together with this new open space, the guardianship deed also obliges Midi to protect the 80,000sqm Glacis Park, which surrounds Fort Manoel, and to transform it into a public open park for the enjoyment of the community.

This park will provide a space where families can picnic, go for walks or simply enjoy the peace and tranquillity that this destination offers.

Another key improvement of this revised master plan is the elimination of land reclamation in front of the Gżira promenade. This will help to eliminate the impact that such a development would have put on the Gżira community.

The elimination of land reclamation also guarantees that the existing slipway, which is used by local fishing, kayak and sailing enthusiasts, will be retained and upgraded.

In line with the deed of emphyteusis, Midi will develop new sporting facilities consisting of a full-size football pitch for use by Gżira United FC and a boċċi pitch to be used by local enthusiasts.

As mayor of Gżira and chairman of the Manoel Island Foundation, I welcome the new master plan and will continue to engage with Midi to ensure the delivery of a sustainable development for the benefit of the local community.

Conrad Borg Manché, Gzira mayor, chairman of Manoel Island Foundation

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