The government on Friday announced a project that will effectively almost double the area of the Ta`Qali National Park, with an additional 200,000 square metres of land turned into open spaces for families to enjoy.
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said this project will return to the people an area that was used abusively over the years as a concrete factory.
“This is not simply the embellishment of the area but the result of direct action on a zone that until a few weeks ago was a dilapidated concrete factory. We could have easily given it up for commercial use because we have investors who need the space but we saw the potential and decided to return it to the people,” he said.
The 52,000 square metres of land will be rehabilitated to create the new Malta National Park. It will include pockets of land that are currently not accessible, or are dangerous. The present parking areas, which in total cover another 150,000 square metres of land, will also be improved.
The national park is practically being doubled to 450,000 square metres which was a third of Hyde Park in the UK, Dr Muscat said proudly. It will include an extension of the dog park and the creation of a camping site, an electoral pledge, he added.
Dr Muscat said the government is also looking into roofing over the Santa Venera tunnels which divide Santa Venera in two. This will create another 13,000 square metres of open space for families. Along with Ta`Qali, this will create “a new lung in the centre of the country”.
“These projects and others show that our priority is the country’s economic well-being but this is a means to an end. The end is social justice, social mobility and quality of life, along with national unity and equality.
"This government knows that people want more open spaces so we are providing the solutions,” he said.
Environment Minister Jose Herrera said the new site, on which 80,000 trees will be planted, will be managed by Ambjent Malta while Transport Minister Ian Borg said the project, which will cover the equivalent of 63 football pitches, will cost around €20 million.
Planning Authority chief executive Johann Buttigieg said the site, which previously housed a concrete plant that was disused fort several years, took the PA around six weeks of continuous work to clear.
He said the nearby Nissen Huts could not be removed as the authority was stopped by the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage which is looking into alternative use for them or an alternative site where they can be placed.