The Malta Environment and Planning Authority yesterday unanimously approved an application for the demolition of factories and clearance at the SmartCity project site.

The full development application was for the total removal of redundant services, the removal of all timber and metal apertures, asbestos removal and structural demolition down to rock bearing level of 19 factories and the related infrastructure at Ricasoli Industrial Estate, Kalkara.

The application also covered the construction of a temporary jetty, the partial conversion and refurbishment of one of the factories into a temporary office and the installation of security fencing and a boundary wall.

It was approved against a number of conditions including the deposit of a bank guarantee for Lm250,000.

Mepa also approved the development of a road linking Triq Santu Rokku to Triq il-Konvoy ta' Sta Maria, in Kalkara, in view of the SmartCity development.

The Government Investments Ministry said the demolition process was expected to generate over 600,000 cubic metres of waste and would be in line with the highly-detailed construction and environment management plan submitted by the developers as requested by Mepa.

The costs of the works, as stipulated by the contract, would be borne by the company.

The ministry said Mepa had started the consultation process for the environmental impact assessment for the full development permit.

With an investment outlay equivalent to $300 million, SmartCity is expected to transform the Ricasoli Industrial Estate into a state-of-the-art ICT and media business community based on the successful models of Dubai Internet City and Dubai Media City.

It is expected to generate at least 5,600 jobs and offer a minimum of 103,000 square metres of office space.

During its four-hour marathon meeting yesterday, Mepa put off a decision on the construction of a retail mall and overlying car park at Pinto Stores seven to 12 at the Waterfront, in Floriana.

The decision was postponed until studies are held on the need of car parking facilities in connection with cruise liner operations. The studies will be in line with Mepa's terms of reference.

The directorate pointed out that the development of a car park at the site was undesirable since this went against a number of structure plan and Grand Harbour local plan policies.

The Heritage Advisory Committee also advised against the development saying this would have a deleterious impact on the prestigious Waterfront project which did not deserve to be marred by the inclusion of a multi-storey car park.

The Planning Directorate pointed out that the main justifications provided by the applicant were that parking was very high on Viset's agenda and the landside operation could not succeed unless the requirements as outlined in the original traffic impact statement were met.

Previous solutions, such as the inclusion of a multi-storey car park for 550 spaces at the Floriana playing field, were rejected by Mepa.

And although the alternative of the Deep Water Quay hinterland provided 250 parking spaces, this still represented a shortfall of 300 spaces. An attempt was made to build two floors over the site but it was not feasible in terms of structural loading.

The introduction of cable car links to the Park and Ride site and to Valletta was stalled and its future was uncertain. The current proposal would ease parking problems that were bound to increase in direct proportion to the success of the seaside and landside activities.

David Drago, representing the developer, said that sea passenger terminal users needed and wanted the car park. A terminal, he stressed, required some form of car parking. How could Viset be expected to seek home porting cruise companies without a car park?

Car parking, he emphasised, was a core function of a cruise liner terminal.

But the directorate pointed out that the argument that the car park was needed for cruising operations was only being made now and throughout the discussions with Viset it had been clear that they wanted the car park for the retail businesses at the Waterfront.

Mepa also approved the scuttling of patrol boat P29 at Cirkewwa, the demolition of Mira Buildings and the excavation of the site at Enrico Mizzi Street, corner with Triq D'Argens, Msida and the construction of a new cattle shed and a manure clamp at Triq Qasam San Gorg, in Kercem.