Qui-Si-Sana high-rise a ‘new chapter’ for Malta, developers’ EIA states
James Debono - Malta Today 31 May 2016
The impact of the proposed high-rise 40 storey tower hotel in Qui-Si-Sana may make pedestrians rejoice, welcoming it as a symbol of Malta’s “coming of age”, the coordinators of an Environment Impact Assessment commissioned by GAP Holdings are claiming.
The authors of both the Landscape Impact and Cultural Heritage assessments both conclude that the impact of the proposed development on the cultural landscape and visual amenity will be of “very high significance” and “adverse”.
But the coordinator (ERSLI Consultants) of the assessment disputes this finding by pointing out that the conclusion that the impact is adverse may be “the subject of discussion” because there may be receptors who would consider the tall tower ‘beneficial’.
The coordinator claims that some receptors may see the imposing tower positively as a symbol representing “Malta’s economic and technological coming of age, particularly since the ‘tower’ is often strongly associated with the financial services sector” (even if the proposed project consists of a hotel).
“For such receptors, the proposed development may be yet another contribution to the Maltese landscape which reflects yet another chapter of Malta’s post-Independence economic history.”
The EIS also argues that high-rise development is an inevitable consequence of Malta's choice to base its economy on financial services and high tech operations.
"Different economic systems engender specific types of physical development, the absence of which may make it difficult for such systems to grow and thrive".
The EIS also warns that given that the proposed hotel has the potential to encourage further commercial investment in the streets (particularly Triq Tigné) linking the site with the two urban centres (Tigné and Town Square), there is the possibility that residents may be elbowed out of the residential area as their properties are taken over by commercial interests. “The significance of this impact would depend on the manner in which such pressures are handled by the authorities through the Planning System”.
A study of the impact on the cultural heritage also warns that the building of a high-rise hotel will create more shadows in narrow streets such as Triq Sant’Antnin, Triq Pace and Triq Mattew Pulis.
“These streets house a number of dwellings from the late 19th and early 20th century, that have become a rare sight in Sliema. Such shadows as well as the rise of modern structures, will further drain the area from the little remaining character of a summer residence which Sliema once was in the 19th century”.
Officers’ quarters proposed for Grade 1 scheduling
Significantly the report reveals that the officers’ quarters, parts of which are proposed for demolition, with only parts of the facades retained to be included in the hotel, have been proposed by the Planning Authority for Grade 1 protection which would preclude any development which would alter its context. No further reference is made in the study to the building’s proposed scheduling. The PA has recently revealed that over 100 sites are awaiting scheduling but refused to reveal the names of the buildings because ‘external influence’ could hamper process. The Sliema local council has also officially called for the scheduling of the building.
If the scheduling does take place the project cannot even go ahead.
This is because demolition or alterations which impair the setting or change the external or internal appearance of a grade 1 building, including anything contained within the curtilage of the building, are not allowed.
The study warns that the dismantling and the integration of parts of the officers’ mess facade into the lower floors of a high-rise hotel means that its “mere existence as a free-standing structure will be forever lost”.
But the report also claims that in its current dilapidated state the structure creates a danger to the community and is adversely affecting the urban fabric of the area and is leading to further damage being done to the structure itself by the natural elements as well as by human intervention.
The cultural landscape of the area will not only be visually affected since the proposed development will be the focal point of Tigné, but the barracks and the military heritage of the area which still exists (Fort Cambridge) will be further de-contextualised.
6,000 more cars passing through Qui-Si-Sana
The proposed development is expected to generate substantial amounts of traffic flows, particularly during the peak hours.
The annual average daily traffic (AADT) of the road network of the offices which were previously approved for the site was calculated at 530 vehicles, in comparison to an AADT of 1,527 vehicles which would be generated by the proposed hotel. Therefore, the net additional contribution to the AADT would be 997.
This means that the twin development of the 38-storey tower proposed at Townsquare and the 40-storey hotel would result in nearly 6,000 more cars passing through the area on a daily basis.
This ‘problem’ should be addressed, as is already being done, through policies and initiatives designed to reduce the dependency of many on the private car.
Studies also show that the project will be creating “moderate wind conditions at the adjacent public garden”.
These conditions will be “suitable for standing and sitting for a short time.” The major problem is caused by east winds. The report warns that “turbulent vortices are predicted in the zone adjacent to the north east and north west face of the building “due to the interaction of high and low pressure streams”.