The body that represents Paceville businesses has accused Infrastructure Malta of drawing plans that would serve an “impending development” and move people away from the centre of the entertainment mecca.
The Chamber for Small and Medium Enterprises was reacting to plans filed before the Planning Authority for a €70 million project that includes considerable road widening and the construction of four new tunnels to ease traffic congestion in Swieqi, Pembroke, Paceville and St Julian’s.
The project comes in the wake of the db Group’s proposals to build a massive hotel and residential project in St George’s Bay.
Without referring to the db project specifically, the SME chamber said the infrastructural enhancements were in the interest of the business entities undertaking development projects.
“It is clear that the [Infrastructure Malta] proposal does not consider, let alone adequately address, the needs that have developed over time in Paceville and surrounding areas.”
It said the proposal should support the needs of the existing community, including the business community, “important economic contributors whose livelihood must be safeguarded as a priority”.
While supporting the project’s long-term vision, the chamber said the plan did not address the current problems that the residential community and patrons of the various establishments, including hotels, had in accessing the centre of the area.
The operator and owner of the Corinthia San Gorg Hotel, Radisson Hotel and the Marina Hotel, all abutting the proposed tunnel development, also strongly objected to the proposed project.
In a submission before the Planning Authority, International Hotel Investment plc said the proposed tunnel will have a significant adverse effect on access to its properties and the hotel would have to close during construction.
This would result in loss of business and negative impact on the brand, endangering the viability of the operation.
“This is clearly unacceptable, particularly when alternative options exist that could well avoid the adverse effects,” IHI said.
It also complained that the present access to the hotels from two different roads would be reduced to just one access point, which is “very dangerous”.
There would be an “unacceptable increase in air, visual and noise pollution due to the amount of cars entering and exiting the tunnel”.
IHI said it was not inherently against the necessary infrastructural upgrading of the road network in the area but there were alternatives that would not present “unacceptable and disproportionate burdens on IHI”.
Feedback was also received from the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage which expressed its serious concern over the potential impact on a number of cultural heritage sites and features.
The features include gardens that are part of the scheduled palazzo in the Spinola area; Għar Ħarq Ħammien and its surroundings in Pembroke, including archaeological features; scheduled rifle ranges in Pembroke with their protected natural environs; a scheduled military parade ground and the military complex in Pembroke as well as a cluster of scheduled monuments in St Julian’s.
Former Greens chairman Arnold Cassola, a Swieqi resident, said he hoped businesses showed solidarity with residents in Pembroke and Swieqi “who are going to have their lives ruined by the other three tunnels proposed for the area… because of this greed for quick money”.