Friday, February 7, 2014

Villa Bonici application turned down pending a development Brief

Noel Grima
The Malta Independent 7th February 2014

The Mepa board yesterday unanimously rejected an application to demolish an existing building and develop a residential area in the gardens of historic Villa Bonici in Sliema.

Villa Bonici is one of the many villas that used to be found in Sliema, with a frontage on the marina and a huge garden with features and with the main door in what used to be Prince of Wales Street and now Manwel Dimech Street.

The application has always been marked as a controversial one and no less than 600 representation letters were received by Mepa objecting to the proposal.

The Mepa board had already considered the proposal some time ago and had postponed a decision so that the applicant could present a different plan.

But Architect Edwin Mintoff, questioned by the Mepa chairman at the beginning of the sitting, admitted there has been no real change in the application. The applicant had remained in contact with the Directorate and is awaiting its direction.

The problem, in short, is that the application requires a Development Brief to go forward but it was not at all clear, up till yesterday, who should be the one to carry out the Development Brief. Previously, it was only Mepa that could carry out a Development Brief but now they can also be done by the applicant.

All parties then agreed there was no point in proceeding with the application that was being discussed before the Development Brief is carried out.

Sliema Councillor Michael Briguglio who was accompanied by the Sliema mayor, said the council, which is a registered objector, does not object to a Development Brief as long as there is adequate public consultation.

One must ensure that things are not carried out as they did at Fort Cambridge where the Development Brief was not followed.

Adrian Gatt, a resident and an objector, said the top part of the gardens was within the UCA up till 2006 but this was changed when the local plan was approved without public consultation. It was also scheduled but now even the building height limit has been removed.

Dr Mintoff replied that his plans had kept to the building heights of the buildings there. It is not true that the entire area was scheduled: only some elements have been scheduled and the application will respect them. The applicant has also discovered other elements that were not scheduled and will be restoring them.

When the application was thus put to vote, it received a unanimous vote of rejection.

Once the meeting was formally over, Astrid Vella from Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar stood up and invited Mepa to investigate how such an important part of Sliema had been erased out of the UCA.

The board members quickly showed they resented this intrusion after the meeting was formally over and some told the chairman he did not have to reply to her.

Ms Vella reiterated the change was made before the local plan was approved in 2006 with no consultation whatsoever.

Timmy Gambin, a Mepa board member, said it was not right that Ms Vella arrived late to the meeting and then hijacked it.

Dr Mintoff commented Ms Vella should have protested when the local plan was being approved (in Parliament).

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Villa Bonici decision expected on Thursday

The Malta Environment and Planning Authority Board will be meeting in a public meeting tomorrow - Thursday 6th February, 2pm - to determine the fate of an application to develop the Villa Bonici site in Sliema.

James Debono

The local plan approved in 2006 makes it clear that development can only be permitted on the site following the formulation of a development brief for the whole site.

The case officer's report reveals that discussions have already started with the owners to devise a new development brief. In fact the developers have been asked by the Planning Directorate to withdraw the present application until MEPA finalises the brief. But the owners have pressed on with the application.

The decision was deferred by a month during a board meeting held on 9 January.

This was done to allow "the applicant to consider his position and for the Directorate to confirm its intentions regarding the Development Brief".

On the eve of the last meeting the developers presented four different proposals for development in the area.

The proposed development consists of 188 apartments in four residential blocks ranging in height between two and 12 floors.

The main reason given in the case officer's report for refusing the development is that no development brief, as stipulated by the North Harbour Local Plan, has been devised for this zone.

According to the case officer's report the project, will result in the complete destruction of the gardens.

A proposed eight-storey block would also have an adverse impact on the scheduled villa, due to the short distance between the two buildings.

In a statement, NGO Zminijietna urged MEPA to ensure that the proposed development is subject to a development brief which includes comprehensive public consultation, before pursuing it any further, and that any development should be subject to an environment impact assessment, social impact assessment and traffic impact assessment.

The Sliema Residents Association had insisted that the area should be developed for community purposes.

The Sliema Local council had also objected to development in the absence of a comprehensive development brief.

Its present owner, Alfred Gera de Petri, has insisted that Villa Bonici is his family's private property and that the villa's location in the middle of urban development gave its owners rights to its monetary value.

"Some people, in their unbridled enthusiasm, seem to forget that owners do have rights and that these are also protected by the Constitution and the European Court," Gera de Petri had told the Times.


Sliema Local Council's official statement to MEPA:

PA/06239/08 – Site at, Triq il-Kurunell Savona, Sliema

The Sliema Local Council, following it’s initial objections to the afore mentioned permit application, insists that this proposed development requires a development brief, including, an Environmental Impact Assessment, a Traffic Impact Assessment and a Social Impact Assessment before the processing of the application continues.

Together with this, the Sliema Local Council demands that a full consultation process accompanies the processing of this development application.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Sliema top locality for recycling

James Debono
Malta Today 2/2/14

Residents in Sliema are separating the greatest amount of waste, with each resident separating an average 49kg in the first eleven months of 2013.

The amount of waste separated in Sliema was twice the national average of 25kg per resident.

This emerges from an analysis of statistics presented to parliament showing the total amount of waste deposited in grey bags in each locality. The amount of waste for each locality was than divided by the number of residents.

The analysis shows that localities in the south of Malta and the inner harbour area, are the least likely to separate their waste. This seems to tally with other social indicators showing inner harbour localities having the lowest levels of educational achievement.

Surprisingly, Marsaskala residents are among the least civic-minded. Despite hosting the Sant' Antnin recycling plant, and therefore having a direct interest in reducing the amount of mixed waste entering the plant, each resident only separates 16kg of waste.

The lowest level of separation is registered in Malta's capital city Valletta, where only 42 tonnes of separated waste was collected between January and November 2013. This amounts to just 7kg per resident.

Waste separation rates are also low in Gozo, where on average each resident separates 20kg of waste, 5kg less than the Maltese average.

Presently people are expected to put out the grey bag for recyclable packaging waste on Tuesdays.

Under the new waste plan, by 2015 the collection of mixed waste will take place only once a week, while the collection of organic waste will take place three times a week. Presently no separate collection exists for organic waste, while the collection of black bags - containing mixed and organic waste - takes place on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.

Only 23% of waste is currently being separated. The target for 2020 is to increase the rate of separation to 50%.

The low rate of separation creates a dependency on landfills.

"Basically by putting all kinds of waste in a mixed bag we would occupy more space in a landfill. It is only be minimizing the amount of waste that we can minimize the need for facilities. In this way we also minimize the impact on resources like energy and land use," waste policy coordinator Kevin Gatt warned in an interview published on MaltaToday back in November 2013.