Din l-Art Ħelwa wishes to express its alarm at the way the government is handling the development of the Institute of Tourism Studies (ITS) site in St. George’s Bay. By signing the agreement with the developers, the Government has committed itself to the development as proposed, without taking into account urban planning considerations.
The Government’s commitment pre-empts the planning process and makes it difficult for the Planning Authority to seek improvements to the proposed development. It also pre-empts the Planning Authority’s revision of the Paceville masterplan.
In an interview this weekend, the developer made it clear that the agreement binds government to the developer’s proposed development and that the developer has no intention of changing anything, irrespective of the planning process.
Government’s attitude towards urban planning is unacceptable and this is reflected in the process that led to last week’s signing of the agreement in the presence of the Prime Minister.
The tender was issued apparently without consultation with the then-Malta Environment and Planning Authority and without reference to the Local Plan. For large-scale developments, it is good practice to prepare a development brief and issue it with the tender or call for interest. The development brief would then set out the parameters of the eventual development. Such a process would involve a public consultation and take into account all urban planning considerations. This certainly did not happen in this case.
The lack of a development brief is evidenced by the many weaknesses that are immediately apparent. The scale and intensity of development is excessive for the site and the area. There evidently was no consideration how the building/s will impact the immediate surroundings. There is a lack of public open space within the site. Furthermore, the development does not appear to conform to Local Plan policies. The British barrack blocks, scheduled at Grade 2, will also be demolished.
The parking and traffic problems in the area will worsen. Instead of using the site to ease some of the parking pressures on Paceville, the government will be allowing a development that will make the Paceville parking situation many times worse.
Din l-Art Helwa calls on government to allow the planning process to take its course, without interference, and in particular to allow the Planning Authority to abide by a decision of the House Environment and Development Planning Committee taken on 6 December 2016 namely that planning applications should be evaluated in terms of current policy until the Paceville master plan was finalised.
In conclusion Din l-Art Helwa emphasizes that it is completely against the use of public land for speculative purposes. There is no economic argument that supports the use of public assets in this manner. Furthermore, the values of the payments to be made by the developers for the land have been inflated by the addition of taxation revenues and redemption payments by future tenants and owners, while the cost to taxpayers of the move of the Institute for Tourism Studies to another location was completely ignored.
7th February 2017