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32-storey tower approved before Paceville Masterplan

PA chairman Vince Cassar votes against insisting that masterplan should be approved before individual projects

Photomontage of Mercury House tower as seen from Sliema

A 32-storey tower on the Mercury House site in Paceville has been approved by the Planning Authority (PA) before the approval of a masterplan for the area despite the opposition of the authority’s board chairman.

PA Board chairman Vince Cassar was one of three board members who voted against the development after insisting on the importance of approving a masterplan before approving individual projects.

During the meeting PA CEO Johann Buttigieg revealed that a tender for a new masterplan for Paceville is still being scrutinised by the department of contracts before being issued,and will include additional safeguards against conflict of interests.

The high-rise, proposed by Gozitan developer Joseph Portelli, will include  275  apartments, shops and a 48 room hotel. Ironically the original masterplan was aborted after it emerged that consultants Mott Macdonald had also advised Portelli on his project.

Cassar, NGO representative Annick Bonello and St Julians Mayor Guido Dalli were the only board members to vote against.

Both opposition representative Ryan Callus  and the government’s representative Clayton Bartolo voted in favour.

But the two political representatives also voted for a proposal made by the mayor to introduce a  €250,000 planning gain for the locality which was voted down by the board. The board approved a € 60,000 contribution towards an artistic fund administered by the Arts Council Malta.

ERA Chairman Victor Axiak insisted that the EIA is not considering the cumulative effects of the various projects in the area, and therefore a master plan is needed to avoid case by case assessments. Callus also spoke of the importance of a master plan to regulate development.
The original development brief on the basis of which the government had sold the land after a competitive tender in 2005 to Penderville Limited had limited development in the area to a maximum of 15 floors. But in 2012 the PA approved an 18-storey development. The land was later sold to Joseph Portelli who applied for 32 storeys.

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