Monday, December 22, 2014
Townsquare Development Proposal in Sliema
Sliema Local Council is looking into the proposed development of Townsquare, at the Union Club grounds between Tower Road and Qui-si-sana. Over the past years, this proposal has undergone changes and has also been subject to much debate among residents and councillors.
We have now learned that the proposed development will include various buildings including a 33-storey tower, the rehabilitation of Villa Drago and its gardens, a shopping hall, 181 apartments, almost 5,000 square metres of office space, more than 9,000 square metres of retail area, and an underground carpark for about 700-800 cars.
The Malta Environment and Planning Authority’s (MEPA) Environment Protection Directorate (EPD) has assessed the plans and concluded that the development will have an impact on air quality in an area which is already congested with traffic, and noted that the annual average daily traffic from the project would be over 27,000 vehicles.
MEPA’s assessment also notes that excavation would have an impact of major significance in terms of vibrating disturbance, but that the restoration of Villa Drago will have positive impacts.
MEPA’s study also states that the development will extend the existing shadowing of Qui-si-sana. Indeed, shadowing will impact further over the sea and will also affect additional areas of the rocky shore which would be deprived of sunshine even during midday.
Finally, the EPD report adds that the social impact on the area will be negative.
It is therefore no surprise that Sliema Local Council is registering as an objector to proposed plans. The council will be looking further into the proposed plans and speak up accordingly. We believe that improvements can be made which give more consideration to social and environmental considerations.
Here one should note that development should be sustainable, meaning that social and environmental factors should not be sidelined for short-term economic gains. To the contrary, social, environmental and economic considerations can be reconciled through holistic planning and comprehensive consultation.
Unfortunately residents in the area do not have positive experiences of the impact of some other development projects in the vicinity. Areas close to some development projects remain shabby, and at times resemble rubbish dumps, with debris being scattered in various places, and with infrastructure, fencing and other features which are reminiscent of shanty towns. Such practices are also of disservice to those developers who do engage in good practice and professional workmanship.
In the case of Fort Cambridge, it is disappointing to note that embellishment and restoration of historical sites is taking place at a snail’s pace, thus raising legitimate concern by many residents.
Adherence to development conditions requires improvement in Malta. Local Councils do not have legal power in this regard, but can act as legitimate voices on residents’ concerns. We urge authorities to ensure that development always respects the social fabric and environmental characteristics of localities.
Note (1): This article features in Sliema Local Council magazine, December 2014
Note (2): MEPA's public consultation on the project will commence in January 2015. Details will be available at www.mepa.org.mt