Thursday, September 3, 2015

New law paves way for Fort Cambridge skyscraper – Sliema council

James Debono
Malta Today 3 September 2015

A new law gives precedence to all other types of plans over development briefs designed to give specific guidelines on specific sites such as Fort Cambridge in Tigné.

The Sliema local council has expressed concern that by relegating development briefs to the lowest rung in a hierarchy establishing the precedence of plans, the proposed Planning Act could pave the way for the approval of the Fort Cambridge 40-storey tower development.

This is because as proposed, a new law gives precedence to all other types of plans over development briefs which were originally designed to give specific guidelines on development on specific sites, such as Fort Cambridge in Tigné.

The order of precedence is that of the spatial strategy over the subject plan; the subject plan over the local plan, the local plan over the action plan or management plan and the action plan or the management plan over the development brief.

According to a local plan approved by the Malta Environment and Planning Authority in 2006 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.

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 2006 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 brief, the existing ex-military barracks building “is to be retained due to its historical and architectural importance”, but internal alterations are allowed.

The development brief states that this building should 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.

“Apart from its historical importance, (the building) also significantly contributes to the character, identity and local distinctiveness of the area,” the Fort Cambridge development brief reads.

In its written submissions on the new law, the Sliema council claims that by relegating the development brief to the bottom of the planning policy heirarchy MEPA is defying the notion of subsidiarity.

“There is no logic in creating precedence among policies, as all policies ought to be in line with each other,” the council argues.

Moreover if, exceptionally, there is a conflict between plans then the local plan and the development brief should take precedence as they are specific to the conservation and protection required of a particular area.

According to the council this article seems to be placed intentionally to undermine “the good work done under previous administrations in creating development briefs” which ensure sustainable development in specific locations.

“The Sliema Council is particularly concerned about the implications of this new hierarchy on the application of a hotel to be developed on the Fort Cambridge site”.

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