Michael Briguglio: Local Councillor in Sliema, Malta.
Friday, May 13, 2016
Impact of 40-storey hotel at Fort Cambridge would be of 'high significance'
Sliema Local Council asked the Planning Authority to schedule (protect) the barracks. The proposed development violates previous conditions. Planning Authority should consider this development as a non-starter.
Developer's photomontage does not include other skyscraper proposed development in the area
The assessment of the proposed 40-storey hotel at Fort Cambridge in Sliema submitted to the Planning Authority concludes that the environmental and cultural impact would be of high significance, with no possible measures to limit the damage.
The environmental planning statement submitted to the PA last week, a necessary step in development applications of this nature, states that “the scale of the proposed development would undermine the value of the landscape… with no scope for mitigation”.
It refers to the impact on the environment, landscape and cultural heritage.
The hotel would consist of a tower built within the footprint of the existing 19th-century building located to the south of Fort Cambridge, which was originally constructed as living quarters (barracks) for British military personnel posted there.
It had been suggested to the former Malta Environment and Planning Authority that the barracks should be scheduled (protected) as a Grade 2 property, according to the study. It is understood the Authority was in the process of scheduling the area but the process came to a standstill.
Photomontages of the impact on the landscape do not take into account the 38-storey tower proposed for the Town Square project on the old Union Club site in the vicinity, which received over 300 objections since the proposal was made public last summer.
The proposed development at Fort Cambridge consists of a 5-star, 40-floor urban hotel designed for the business traveller and high-end tourist. It would have 368 suites and its footprint would cover 1,770 square metres on a 2,500 square metres site.
The Environmental Planning Statement, which identifies and evaluates the likely environmental impact of a proposed high-rise hotel, states: “The building is designed to make a strong statement on the Sliema skyline.”
Residents who spoke to this newspaper said they were “furious” because the developer, GAP Holdings, owned by Paul Attard, had shown them plans assuring them the development that would replace the military barracks would be limited to four storeys.
The Tigné and Valletta peninsulas, together with Manoel Island, are designated areas of very high landscape sensitivity and value
The study also states that the additional 1,527 vehicles the project would add “would have a negligible impact” on an area already disturbed by traffic congestion.
For some years, the existing building formed part of a hotel, which was closed down some years ago. In 2008 it was earmarked for office development.
The proposed use would involve its interiors being demolished and substantial parts of the facades retained. These facades will envelope the first four floors, with the other 36 floors built around a contemporary design.
The site is located in the Triq Tigné, corner with Triq il-Ponta ta’ Dragut, on the Tigné peninsula.
The barracks were designed to form part of the Cambridge Battery, built in the 1880s.
The weaponry in the fort included one of the 100-ton guns which were installed in Malta and Gibraltar. Together with other coastal defence installations of the day, Fort Cambridge was a response to the improvements in warship design. Initially, the barracks were two storeys high, with an additional two floors added later.
The military buildings were constructed by the Order of St John and the British. Tigné Point was one of the more important defensive positions in the islands, improving control of the mouth of Marsamxett Harbour.
The presence of Fort Tigné, the Garden Battery, Fort Cambridge and the barracks in Tigné Point gave the area a military character which has been diluted over the years as a result of the type of development that has been taking place in the area for the past years, according to the study. The fortified coastline, which includes the Tigné and Valletta peninsulas together with Manoel Island, is officially designated an area of very high landscape sensitivity and value.
The Planning Authority has set June 30 as the deadline for feedback.