Plans for the construction of the first two apartment blocks in the Manoel Island development project have been submitted to the Planning Authority by the Midi Consortium.

The move follows the issuance of a preliminary (outline) planning permit last March, giving the consortium the go-ahead to build an extensive residential complex comprising 600 flats, a hotel at the historic Lazzaretto, as well as shops, a yacht marina and plazas. 

Midi, which in 2000 was given a 99-year concession to the site, is pledging to restore historical buildings and fortifications on the island and create 80,000 square metres of parks and family areas around Fort Manoel. The fort will house galleries, museums, shops and restaurants. 

The development application for the construction of the first two of the 15 blocks, or ‘clusters’ as they are referred to, was submitted last April. However, the plans only became publicly accessible on September 11 after they were published in the Government Gazette. 

The application is for an area of 14,500 square metres on the right of the island’s entrance, part of which was a football pitch used by Gżira United and was also used for a luna park in the summer months. 

The developer is also seeking a permit for excavation, including pits and foundations, a car park at basement level and a number of open spaces. 

According to the plans submitted so far, the apartment blocks will rise to six storeys above sea level including the penthouse. 

Though the planning process is at an advanced stage, the public consultation has just started and any objections must be submitted by not later than October 11. 

The original masterplan was drafted in 1999 and has since been revised but the project has been under fire over concerns of over development. 

In the run-up to the approval of the outline permit, more than 6,000 people had signed a petition calling on the government to turn Manoel Island into a wooded park with heritage buildings in order to safeguard the iconic views from Gżira and Ta’ Xbiex. 

Another bone of contention was the issue of public access to the site, but the matter has been resolved through a guardianship agreement between Midi and the Gżira council. 

Under this agreement, a joint foundation will be able to take the developers to court if they alter building heights, build up any part of a promised public park surrounding Fort Manoel or go back on other aspects of the plans.

According to Midi, the new masterplan is an improvement on the grounds that the built-up footprint has been reduced and the open spaces increased. 

The developers also committed to incorporating a slipway for small boat owners, after complaints from the local fishing community.

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