Thursday, July 30, 2015

38-Storey Highrise: Support the Qui-si-sana & Tigne' Residents Association's and FAA's objection to Townsquare proposal, Sliema

The Qui-si-sana and Tigne' Residents Association and Flimkien ghall-Ambjent Ahjar have produced the document below which can be endorsed. As Sliema Local Councillor and resident, I am supporting this text. Michael Briguglio


Dear Sir/Madam

If you agree, please send the objection below (or something similar) by no later than the 3rd August 2015, either by mailing it to: MEPA Objections, St Francis Ravelin, Floriana FRN1230, or by emailing it to

You can contact the Qui si-Sana/Tigne Residents’ Association at to email you a soft copy of this text which you can forward directly on the above MEPA email address.

Please circulate this message to all your family and friends, as anyone can object to MEPA, even if they don’t live in the area – remember Malta is small – we are all affected by mega-projects on our island.


I am hereby objecting to the proposed Townsquare project on the grounds of its damaging impact on the community:
1. The increase of thousands of cars entering/exiting the Tigne`/Qui-Si-Sana peninsula to be generated by this project will create further havoc and air pollution in this already congested area and violate MEPA’s BEN 1 regulation.
2. This intensive residential and commercial high-rise project will seriously strain the local infrastructure of roads, drains, water and electricity supply, which are already inadequate because of the massive over-development that has already taken place in the peninsula without an upgrade of essential services to cope with future projects.
3. The blocking of light and air that this tall building will cause, will impact residents’ physical and mental health and deprive residents of their right to sunlight for solar panels.
4. The development will lead to deterioration in the health and quality of life of the residents in the area due to an increase in noise and air and noise pollution with the developers having already suggested that residents should keep their windows closed for the duration of the building construction work.

Name: _____________________________

Email: ____________________________

Address: ___________________________

Friday, July 24, 2015

Giant Sliema mural to have second part - and a message - in North Italy

Times of Malta, 24 July 2015

An artist who painted a stunning graffiti mural which has been turning heads in Sliema intends to complete the piece in northern Italy in a couple of weeks.

The four-storey high mural shows a man scrambling into a hole in a wall of a building, adjacent to the Regina car park.

Many on the way to Bisazza Street have stopped to marvel at the piece, wondering whether there is a story to the grey man in red shorts and flip-flops.

It took the French artist, who goes by the name MTO, three days to complete the mural, which formed a part of the Sliema Arts Festival.

Asked about his piece, he told this newspaper to “wait a week or two... you will understand”.

But Pierre Portelli, who chairs the festival committee, said the other part of the mural will show the man coming out of a wall in an as yet unspecified building in the north of Italy. It is meant to portray the struggle of migrants who leave southern shores and head to northern Europe in search of a better life.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

‘4,000 extra cars won’t aggravate traffic problems’, Townsquare developers claim

3rd August Deadline for Objections re. 38 storey highrise in Sliema - go to bottom of this blogpost for further details.

Environment Impact Studies commissioned by the developers of the Townsquare project in Tigné, Sliema estimate that the project will increase daily traffic peak flows in the Qui-Si-Sana area from the present 24,444 to 28,874 vehicles.

JAMES DEBONO quizzes developer Michael Soler and architect Martin Xuereb on the 38-storey tower proposed in the heart of Sliema

Malta Today, 21 July 2015

Environment Impact Studies commissioned by the developers of the Townsquare project in Tigné, Sliema estimate that the project will increase daily traffic peak flows in the Qui-Si-Sana area from the present 24,444 to 28,874 vehicles.

Yet the developers of the ambitious 38-storey tower – just metres away from a 40-storey tower hotel being proposed by Gap Developments – insist that an additional 4,430 vehicles will not aggravate problems because the project will also include a car park catering for 800 cars.

So will not the car park itself, coupled with the new retail areas, attract even more cars to the area? For developer Michael Soler, a director of the Gasan Group, the creation of more car park spaces means that cars will not have to move around Sliema until they find where to park. That means eliminating the creation of on street congestion, he says. “The car park will ensure a better traffic flow,” he reasons.

Architect Martin Xuereb insists that traffic problems are not related to high-rise buildings. “This is a very big misconception because developing the site traditionally will have exactly the same impact on traffic as developing the site vertically.”

Soler insists that according to the local plan the developers can develop the 12,000 square metres of land in the area into 26 blocks with an average height of seven to eight storeys.

“The only difference is that by using the floor area ratio we will keep half of the site as an open public space.”

Another advantage of a high-rise, Soler says is that services such as garbage collection can be centralised.

He even dismisses concerns that Sliema cannot take this massive increase in traffic irrespective of whether development is high-rise or not.

Soler points out that the traffic impact studies have shown that all junctions can cope with the increase in traffic except for the one at the Pjazzetta, which is already earmarked for a new junction by 2017.

“The major problem in Sliema is one of traffic management, not one of too many cars, and the major bottleneck is at the ferries,” he says.

Xuereb also says out that parking access for visitors will be through the main roads and not through residential ones. On the other hand, access to the car park for residents of the apartments will be through Hughes Hallet Street.

He insists that the latest air quality studies, based on the assumption that by 2017 the average age of Maltese vehicles will be down from the current 14 years to 10 years, showed that emissions will remain within EU parameters.

The new project will consist of 163 new apartments, 130 of which will be located in the 38-storey tower. It will also include 4,700 square metres of office space and 8,250 square metres of retail.

Asked what sense it made to build more apartments when 32% of dwellings are vacant, Soler insisted that there is no over-supply of properties when it comes to the top end of the property market.

He refers to the fact that properties at Portomaso and Tigne are immediately sold as evidence that a market exists for properties with the right design and location.

“Properties remain vacant mostly because these are not located in the right location or have a poor design. We have both a good location and a good design.”

As regards shading, the architect acknowledges that the tower will cast a shadow on the roofs of some residences. But he insists that this will consist of a pencil shadow which will not be continuous but will move as the sun crosses the sky.

Xuereb denied claims in the EIA that the project will increase the shadowing on the public open spaces along the Qui-Si-Sana seafront. According to the EIA the scheme also impacts additional areas of the rocky foreshore at noon insofar as there will “no longer be patches of sunshine”.

Xuereb cited the results of studies showing that the major impact on the coastline will be felt in December when the tower’s shadow will extend to the sea. But in June the tower will only impact the coastline between 5 and 6pm.

Asked about the massive inconvenience caused to residents during the months of excavations and construction, Soler replied that the same inconvenience would take place if they developed the site horizontally.

He also pointed out that the advantage of developing a tower will be that a tower is only built once and permanently while low rise developments may take place more sporadically.

“The site will be developed at one go in contrast to other developments in Sliema which see apartment blocks being redeveloped after a few years.”

He also insists that the developers will not be building more apartments by building upwards instead of sideways.

“Had we applied for a traditional development we would have developed around 180 apartments in 26 blocks, [but] through high-rise we will develop a bit less.”

Architect Xuereb also explained the changes in the project over the past years by pointing out that when the project consisted of 23 floors another 15-storey tower was also proposed. The 15-storey tower has now been reduced to five storeys. The latest change saw the height of the main tower increase from 34 storeys to 38.

“We did this because the MEPA asked us to reduce the bulk of the tower at the bottom.”

They also consider the new retail development in the open spaces around the tower as a continuation of high street shopping in Bisazza Street and Tower Road.

“We did not want to create a new shopping mall. We will be creating a pedestrianised space where people can continue their shopping experience while walking along Sliema’s streets,” says Xuereb.

Soler also dismisses claims that high rise in Tigne could affect Valletta’s world heritage status. He backs this by referring to a UNESCO statement that based on the official maps of the World Heritage site, the army base near the Excelsior hotel did not fall within the boundaries of Valletta or its immediate vicinity.

3rd August Deadline for Objections re. 38 storey highrise in Sliema!
Go to this link for further details if you want to send an objection to MEPA:

Monday, July 20, 2015

3rd August Deadline for Objections re. 38 storey highrise in Sliema

Individuals and NGOs can submit objections to MEPA regarding the Proposal of a 38-storey Tower Block at Sliema, known as the 'Townsquare Project' behind Union Club and Villa Drago. Apart from this proposal, another proposal for a 40-storey Tower Block is also on the cards, this time at the Fort Cambridge site, on top of the ex-Military Barracks. Sliema Local Council and NGOs are objecting to the development proposal. This is a Full-Development Permit Application, which means that the detailed drawings now have a bearing on the processing of the application.

Objections to MEPA re. Townsquare proposal should be sent by 3rd August as follows:

Refer to: PA/01191/05
Email to:

Further information on the proposed development and its impacts can be found on this blog by clicking HERE. Various blogs on the matter will then appear on this same page, under each other.

Michael Briguglio
Local Councillor

Townsquare 38 Storey Tower Block proposal: Bicycling Advocacy Group submits objection to MEPA

Re: PA/01191/05

Dear Sir or Madam;

We the Bicycling Advocacy Group Malta, registered NGO, would like to raise our objections to the development of a 38 story tower block in Sliema on the following grounds.

1. There appears to be no Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan as per the EU White Paper recommendations on urban transport for this development or the surrounding traffic system that it will impact. This system and its effects can be as far reaching as St Julians and Gzira, due to the importance of the Qui Si Sana peninsula.

2. Given that the development will be pedestrianized external parking to the development itself is necessary as the internal parking incurs a significant traffic load. In addition the development needs to be mindful of EU 2020 and 2050 targets of a 50% and 100% reduction respectively in traffic in city cores.

3. The increased traffic (which would be significant) both private and public transport will increase the traffic density for cyclists on Tower Road. This has been reported (Sliema Sharrows Report) as being unsuitable for passing bicycles with sufficient safe clearance in 96% of it's length. There would need to be a segregeted cycle lane involving the removal of parking along Tower is traffic increased substantially in the lines that the development proposes.

4. It is not clear how the development will manage, and importantly, protect the only cyclable legal route out of the peninsula via Triq St Antnin and the streets leading to it, ie Hallet itself. This would also need to be given cyclist priority with the removal of parking and a full cycle lane provisioned for with connecting feeder lanes. Sliema's Tower Road is a consistently and highly patronized cycle route (see National Bike Count reports 2012 & 2014) that must be taken into consideration.

Kind regards,

Jim Wightman

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Bicycling group applauds Sliema local council for road-sharing initiative

The Malta Independent 7/7/15

The Bicycling Advocacy Group has applauded the Sliema Local Council’s efforts to raise awareness about cyclists using Tower Road by placing cyclist awareness signage warning drivers about the presence of cyclists. The signage also makes it clear that cyclists should not use the pavement.

The group sees this as a win-win situation and something that should have occurred at the same time as the signage that legally required cyclists under 12 to dismount on the promenade.

The group went on to challenge other local councils to identify safe corridors and routes through their own localities for cyclists. No local councils in Malta were able to answer the group’s recent survey that asked if it was possible to get from one side of their village safely and efficiently on a bicycle. Sliema Local Council is the first to come up with a plan. It’s simple and effective, and importantly on one of Malta’s key commuting routes, and it is clearly streets ahead of anyone else, the group's spokesman said.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Will Government schedule Tigne' Military Barracks?

Will Government schedule Tigne military barracks as per MEPA advice or is new policy there to permit 40 storey hotel?

New policies apply for Tigné’s 40-storey hotel

Original four-storey limit stated in development brief for Fort Cambridge ‘does not apply

James Debono
Malta Today 5 July 2015

The Malta Environment and Planning Authority is claiming that a policy on hotel heights approved in 2014 has superseded the 2006 development brief for Tigné’s Fort Cambridge, which banned any additional storeys on the historical building.

GAP Holdings’s 40-storey tower hotel proposed atop Fort Cambridge’s former officers’ mess will now be assessed according to the new hotel heights policy, and not according to the development brief approved in 2006, which limited development to just four storeys.

“The proposed development will be evaluated according to current policies,” a spokesperson for MEPA replied when pressed on how the authority is considering the tower building on the former military barracks, when the development brief clearly stated that no additional storeys should be allowed on the historical building.

The new policy regulating the heights of hotels allows four- and five-star hotels to add any number of storeys over and above the number allowed in the Local Plan, as long as the resulting design “constitutes a landmark having unique aesthetic characteristics within the urban context”.

But the development brief, which set the planning parameters for the area before it was leased to GAP Holdings in 2007, clearly banned any additional heights on historical buildings.

The brief, which is still legally binding, had set out the building to “act as a buffer between new higher development on the site and the surrounding residential blocks. No additional floors are to be allowed.”

Delay in scheduling crucial for approval

There is an apparent snag: the new policy on hotel heights does not apply to development on “scheduled sites” like historical buildings, such as the former military barracks.

But the former barracks is not a scheduled building. A MEPA spokesperson recently confirmed that the site “has been proposed by MEPA for grade 2 protection”, which would not allow the application of the new hotel heights policy.

But no final decision has been taken about the grade 2 scheduling.

What this means is that any policy allowing an unlimited number of storeys to be added to the former barracks would be applicable only because the government and MEPA have yet to schedule the site.

There are no doubts about the historical importance of the building. The former barracks, an eye-catching structure, are the last remaining military barracks building in Tigné. It was designed and built in the early 1900s, and therefore together with Fort Cambridge offers a valuable link with the British colonial period. As stated in the Fort Cambridge brief: “Apart from its historical importance, it also significantly contributes to the character, identity and local distinctiveness of the area.”

Moreover the lease agreement signed with the government in 2007 also obliged the developers to restore the barracks before 2017. The proposal made by GAP Holdings is to restore the façade of the building while allowing its internal demolition.

Conflict in interpretation

MaltaToday is informed that there are conflicting interpretations about whether the new policy on hotel heights can supersede a development brief.

Experts contacted by MaltaToday pointed out that applications are normally determined according to the policy in force at the time of the decision.

“This has been a long established legal principle,” one expert on law and planning pointed out.

But the same planning expert also pointed out that in this case the discrepancy is between two completely different documents: between a site-specific brief which sets the parameters for development in a part of Sliema, and a generic policy affecting hotel heights in the whole country.

In its reply, MEPA failed to specify which “current policies” apply to the proposed development.

But MaltaToday is informed that the new development proposal will be judged according to the policy regulating hotel heights, which allows hotels an unlimited number of storeys over what is permitted in local plans.

The site is located in Tigné, one of the five zones where building of over 11 storeys can rise using the floor-area ratio, the formula use to make buildings higher of more open space is created around them.

But there is clearly not enough open space left in the barracks site to allow as compensation for a 40-storey high building.

Landmark Portomaso decision paves the way

The question on whether new policies supersede older commitments was the subject of a decision by the appeals tribunal (Environment and Planning Review Tribunal) handed down in December 2013.

The tribunal, appointed by the newly-elected Labour administration, allowed the construction of 46 villas in a new lagoon at Portomaso, despite a prior MEPA commitment not to allow any further development on the site.

Back in 1995 the planning authority had imposed a condition in the original permit, prohibiting further development on the site. In 2012, MEPA cited this commitment as the reason for refusing the application for the villas.

On appeal, the tribunal held that that condition was no longer applicable since the 2006 local plan, which came in force after the condition was applied, designated the site of the proposed villas as developable. So the local plan was applied and the condition restricting the development was ignored.

Legal sources say MEPA seems to favour this interpretation too. Not only has MEPA failed to contest the decision of the tribunal in court, but it also used this interpretation itself in granting permits on sites which had similar conditions.

Since MEPA is now preparing a new local plan it can still introduce a specific policy regulating development on this site. In this case the local plan policy would prevail over any other policy, including that regulating hotel heights.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Developer bound to restore Tigne' Military Barracks, yet wants 40-storey hotel in Fort Cambridge Site, Sliema

GAP bound by 2007 agreement to restore Tigné military barracks

The agreement binds the developer to restore both the fort and glacis known as Fort Cambridge and the site of the ex military barracks.

James Debono
Malta Today, 2 July 2015

Fort Cambridge developers are legally obliged to “effect the restoration” of the former military barracks building in Tigné, Sliema by April 2017 or “any other time stipulated in a future development permit”.

This is laid down in the agreement signed between the Lands Department and GAP Holdings in April 2007.

The agreement binds the developer to restore both the fort and glacis known as Fort Cambridge and the site of the ex military barracks.

But despite this commitment to restore the barracks, the developers have undertaken no such works in the past seven years during which the site was left abandoned.

Residents in the area have even reported “a mysterious fire” and a general lack of maintenance has made it a haven for vermin.

It was only last month that plans were presented to the Malta Environment and Planning Authority proposing the erection of a 40-storey hotel and the “retention of the historic existing facades of the Fort Cambridge barracks” and the “demolition of the existing southwest facade and the ‘internal structures’.”

A permit issued by MEPA in 2010, which obliged the developers to restore Fort Cambridge, did not impose any obligations with regard to the upkeep of the British era barracks. The works on the fort and glacis were commenced recently, more than three years after the permit was issued.

When contacted in January GAP director Paul Attard claimed that the group was concentrating on the restoration works of Fort Cambridge – the pentagonal British-built fortress dating back to the 1880s, and the glacis.

“As one would appreciate, restoration is very laborious work and it takes quite an amount of time and attention.”

As regards the barracks, he pointed out that the building had been sealed.

Fort Cambridge was leased to GAP for 99 years, following a competitive tender, for Lm23.3 million (€54.274 million).

A Fort Cambridge development brief approved in 2006, which remains legally binding, specifies that the existing building height of the ex military barracks is to be retained.

But MEPA has so far not replied MaltaToday’s questions on whether it intends to change the development brief to accommodate the 40-storey development, which has already been approved by the Malta Tourism Authority and was the subject of preliminary discussions with MEPA.

According to the brief, the barracks building “is to be retained due to its historical and architectural importance”, but internal alterations will be allowed.

This building will act as a buffer between new higher development on the site and the surrounding residential blocks. No additional floors were to be allowed over this landmark building.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Fort Cambridge brief does not allow high-rise

According to the approved brief, the existing ex-military barracks building “is to be retained due to its historical and architectural importance”, but internal alterations are allowed.

James Debono
Malta Today 1 July 2015

The maximum building height for the former military barracks that had recently housed the Holiday Inn in Sliema – now proposed for a 40-storey hotel tower – should be retained at the existing four floors according to the development brief approved by MEPA in 2006.

But the latest development proposal envisions the retention of the historical building’s façade and the construction of a 40-storey tower on top of it.

The development brief is still legally valid and any changes to it have to be approved after amendments are issued for public consultation.

The height limitation in the Tigné area was introduced “in order to conserve the ex-military barracks building”, the brief reads.

According to the approved brief, the existing ex-military barracks building “is to be retained due to its historical and architectural importance”, but internal alterations are allowed.

“This building will act as a buffer between new higher development on the site and the surrounding residential blocks. No additional floors are to be allowed over this landmark building,” the brief says.

The same brief paved the way for a 16-storey development on an adjacent site.

MEPA later approved a 20-storey development on condition that it does not surpass the height of a 16-storey development, made possible by reducing the height of each storey.

The barracks were the last remaining ex-military barracks building in Tigné. It was designed and built in the early 1900s, and therefore together with Fort Cambridge offers a valuable link with the past British period.

“Apart from its historical importance, it also significantly contributes to the character, identity and local distinctiveness of the area,” the Fort Cambridge brief read.

On the other hand the eastern hotel block was an addition made in the early 1980s with no conservation importance.

The historical building has a facade with a series of colonnades and arches. The building also has a characteristic and interesting sheltered, quadrangular, internal courtyard following the same style.

Originally the building was constructed on two floors. Additional floors were added at a later stage, replicating the same architectural style and features of the previous levels. Apart from these interventions, substantial internal alterations were carried out in order to render the building suitable for hotel use.

GAP Holdings director Paul Attard last week confirmed that the Malta Tourism Authority had given the firm the green light to apply with MEPA to build a 40-storey hotel. But the MTA will require further information, details and MEPA permits prior to the final approval.

The application submitted to MEPA is for the erection of a 5-star hotel having 368 rooms.

“At present we are dealing with various renowned management chains,” Attard told MaltaToday.

He described the proposed hotel “as the first of its kind in Malta being a city hotel, more business orientated and not the resort type”.

He also said that the hotel will create 300 new jobs.

According to Attard the shape of the building was developed following various designs and studies with the scope to create a pleasant massing to the high rise as an “iconic building”.