Maltatoday, 23rd March 2008, by James Debono
The Environment Planning Statement for the proposed 1,000 new apartments and a 13-storey tower at the former Mistra Village claims that the advent of low-cost airlines has made it easier for foreigners to buy property in Malta.
The project comprises 1,000 residential units, 4,500m of retail outlets, and 2,202 car park spaces in the underlying basement.
The EPS claims that a study by Direct Line Homes Insurance in the United Kingdom found that the number of foreign property buyers, currently numbering some 800,000, is expected to double in the next five years because of the growth of low-cost airlines.
According to the EPS, the prices of apartments in projects like that proposed in Mistra have increased significantly due to demand from foreign buyers.
The report does not mention the fact that according to the latest census, 61% of dwelling in St Paul’s Bay are vacant for most of the year.
The EPS also cites a study by Ernst and Young claiming that the housing market remains buoyant because of current rent legislation, and the perception among the Maltese that property appreciates faster than other assets.
On the other hand, The EPS for the proposed Mistra Village development states that since the Bajda Ridge is designated as an Area of High Landscape Value, the development will detrimentally affect the landscape in a major way. “The changes to the views from most areas are of minor significance, however the changes from Mistra Bay are considered to be of major significance.”
The EPS also assesses the social impact of the project stating that it would change in the low-rise urban fabric and result in the loss of refuge and privacy for some people, increased noise and air pollution.
Wind speeds near some of the buildings within the new development is likely to pose a pedestrian safety risk in certain conditions.
Following a public outcry against the construction of a 19-storey tower, the latest EPS proposes its replacement with a “boomerang shaped” building stepping up from 6 to 13 and back to 6 floors.
But the same study acknowledged that the impact on landscape will remain a major one.